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Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Race

Please Don’t Stop Reading This Story About Race Just Because You’re Not Racist

Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Race

SEAN JOHNSON, FALSE IDENTITY 1 & 2, 2010

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One day in front of a class of art history students at Cornish College of the Arts, I say, "Raise your hand if you're a racist." I hadn't planned on this.

That class period I was focusing on James Baldwin and Glenn Ligon, both gay men, both African American, and it hit me that because there wasn't a black person in the room, things were getting abstract. This art is valuable and has to be taught—there really is no arguing against Baldwin, and Ligon's painting Black Like Me #2 was one of the first President Obama brought to the White House—but how do you teach someone to have a relationship to it?

So I throw it out there: Raise your hand if you're a racist.

As my students do that thing where they sort of just look at you, perplexed, I raise my own hand. I am deeply embarrassed, but I feel I have to be honest if I am asking them to be.

"You've never had a negative thought based on racial bias?" I ask.

Very slowly, arms begin to rise. I understand their confusion. Theirs is a generation in which we have elected a mixed-race president, but affirmative action has been struck down for being racist.

It was white Seattle parents (and a few from Kentucky, too) who fought all the way to the United States Supreme Court in 2007 so that race would be eliminated from consideration as a tiebreaker in competitions for placements in public schools. Despite the fact that racial inequities remain steady year after "post–civil rights" year—across indexes of health, wealth, and education—racial balancing, according to the 2007 ruling, is no longer a "compelling state interest."

The racial tiebreaker in Seattle was originally instituted to end de facto educational racial segregation. But now segregation across Seattle schools is worse than it was in the 1980s. A few years ago, the Seattle Times published mind-blowing maps of the data; this same backslide has happened around the country.

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," declared US Supreme Court chief justice John G. Roberts Jr., in 2007, siding with the Seattle parents whose kids didn't get into Ballard High because they were white. This is legal color blindness. It has dubious precedent: In 1883, 18 years after the abolition of slavery, US Supreme Court justice Joseph P. Bradley wrote a majority opinion that ended reconciliation laws because former slaves must "cease to be the special favorite of the law."

Today the same argument is made under the precious neologism that laws intended to redress racial inequity are themselves racist. "Racist is the new nigger," says Riz Rollins, the writer, DJ, and KEXP personality. "For white people, the only word that begins to approximate the emotional violence a person of color experiences being called a nigger from a white person is 'racist.' It's a trigger for white people that immediately conjures pain, anger, defensiveness—even for white people who are clearly racist. 'Racist' is now a conversation stopper almost like that device where you can skew a conversation by comparing someone to Hitler. It's an automatic slur. And only the sickest racists will own up to the description."

White people in Seattle are more likely to own rather than rent. White people are more likely to have health insurance and a job. White people are more likely to live longer. White people are less likely to be homeless. White people are less likely to hit the poverty level. White people are less likely to be in jail. White kids are nine times less likely than African Americans to be suspended from elementary school (in high school, it's four times higher; in middle school, it's five times, according to the district's data). Nonwhite high-school graduation rates in Seattle are significantly below white graduation rates—even if you're Asian, regardless of income level.

And then there's the white Seattle police officer beating "the Mexican piss" out of a guy. The white Seattle police officer punching a 17-year-old African American girl in the face. The Seattle Police Guild newspaper editorial that called race-and-social-justice training classes "the enemy," "socialist," and anti-American.

Not that racial experience is monolithic. It's not black and white. But it's real. And across all measurable strata, white people in Seattle have it better.

Yet nobody is racist.

The 2010 US Census data led to reports of Seattle being the fifth whitest city in the country—reinforcing the perception of this place as a white place. But if you look at the actual numbers, 66 percent of people in Seattle identify as white, which means that one in three people are not white. That's not a white city. It only seems like a white city when you're in, say, Ballard or Wallingford or Fremont. If you walk the street expecting every third person you see not to be white, well, then you'll see how weird it is to be in Ballard or Wallingford or Fremont, where almost everyone is white. If you walk the street in Rainier Valley, the opposite is true.

"In Seattle, there's really a small amount that you have to do to be labeled a hero of diversity," says Eddie Moore Jr., the Bush School's outgoing director of diversity, who describes Seattle as "a segregated pattern of existence."

He adds, "It's just that there's really no real challenge to how the structure in Seattle continues to assist whiteness and white male dominance in particular. When you say 'white supremacy' or 'white privilege' in Seattle, people still think you're talking about the Klan. There's really no skills being developed to shift the conversation. How can we be acknowledged to be so progressive, yet be identified to be so white? I wish that's the question more Seattleites were asking themselves."

Back at Cornish, a week after that awkward classroom moment, the vice provost has called me into her office. My classroom was in the basement; this office is on the top floor, beyond a waiting room that doubles as a gallery of finely framed alumni art and behind a wing of administrative assistants typing quietly in cubicles. I've never been here before, I've been teaching only two years, and I am scared. I'm invited into a closed office where the blinds are partially drawn to block out bright sun, to sit at a table across from the vice provost's desk. A third white person in the room, the director of student affairs, pushes a piece of paper across the desk to me.

A student from my class—white, male—has asked for my head. His charge is that by admitting to racism, even though I described it as a problem that had to be named in order to be solved, like any other problem, I could only have been trying to recruit white supremacists. In his letter, he compares me to Hitler. I spend the next hour rehashing, in detail, the tone and content of my lecture. I am trying to be honest and I am trying to wrap my head around the accusation. I am trying to admit to being a racist while at the same time defend my ability to teach about black art history. It is, to say the least, a tortured conversation.

The charges are dismissed; the other students didn't share his theory.

But it suddenly hits me how alien it has become just to try to define racism, and admit to it.

Every conversation about race is tortured—palpably awkward, loaded with triggers, marked by the blind spots of perception and presumption—but that doesn't mean you're doing it wrong or should stop doing it, says Scott Winn. That means you have to keep on.

"Once I realized I was racist, it was, well, what am I going to do about it?" says Winn, a mild-mannered white guy in his 30s. "That shifts the defensiveness."

Ten years ago, Winn cofounded CARW (you say "Car W"), or the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites. For him, getting involved in antiracism "ultimately was not a moral shift but a strategic one." He already knew the world was racially fucked. He just had to figure out what to do next, and he began by examining whiteness as the invisible structure that defines everything—that needs to be explored and then exploded.

"Whiteness is the center that goes unnamed and unstudied, which is one way that keeps us as white folks centered, normal, that which everything else is compared to—like the way we name race only when we're talking about a person of color," Winn says. "We can name how some acts hurt people of color, but it's harder to talk about how they privilege white folks."

CARW holds an open meeting every month at the downtown Y, one of those early-20th-century brick buildings whose architecture is especially, absurdly on this occasion, Anglo. More than 20 people show up usually, sometimes up to 50. They're young and old, male and female, straight and gay. The only thing that would tip you off from the outside that this isn't, like, a giant poker tournament is that participants ask each other to share which gender pronoun they prefer during introductions. There's plenty of overlap between antiracist and LGBT activists in Seattle—Others know from Othering—and the message of these intros is simply that people are not necessarily what you think they are, whatever that is.

The radical thing about CARW is that its purpose is to force awkwardness into the open. It could just as well be called Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Privilege. The first half of every meeting is devoted to group discussion of a theme. The second half is spent in committees, each attached to a separate racial-justice organization run by people of color. CARW is fueled by the philosophy that white people need to follow the lead of people of color on matters of race. (It sounds simple; what's surprising is how seldom it occurs.) One concrete result of that idea is that CARW members volunteer as support staff—waiters, babysitters, whatever—for the activities and events of groups in the Duwamish, African American, Latino, and Filipino communities.

How have I lived in Seattle for more than five years and never heard of CARW until a year ago?

After the first meeting I go to, I describe to CARW member Esther Handy my sense that this is a conversion experience, that everything around me has begun in recent years to look different, with a totality that feels spiritual—waking up to white privilege. (For me, embarrassingly, the real awakening began late, with a 2008 story about transracial adoptees that I wrote in The Stranger, and it continues, propelled selfishly by the fact that I am marrying into a family of color. I come late, and I mean to come humbly.) Gently bringing me down to earth and shifting the focus away from me, Handy says, "Our coming around to figuring out that we should be thinking about and talking about and doing work around racial justice is great and it can be spiritual, as you mentioned. But it is in service and in honor to the awesome organizations and leaders of people of color who have been doing this work for decades... The truth is that communities of color are thinking about racial justice all the time. They're living it and breathing it, and there's a group of white folks supporting that work, but it's only a small fraction of the white community at this point."

I ask her how to talk about racism with people who don't want to see it. I'm not talking about Tea Partyers; I'm talking about people like some of my friends and family, lefties who care, people who are on my team. Attempts to bring up race in editorial meetings at The Stranger have been as klutzy as anywhere. Even for perfectly decent, well-meaning, progressive people, it can be hard to see the connection between unintended acts of racism and actual racial injustice.

"I start with the facts," Handy says. "It's clear these injustices exist. I say I'm trying to understand the systems that create these inequities, and what's my role in working to change things. Reaching out and sharing these concepts with families and friends is absolutely part of the work, it's just not all of the work. Getting our racist uncle to stop saying bigoted things is not going to change the system. But we're not going to change the system without talking to our friends and family about it. While it benefits us not to talk about race, let's look at these disparities that just don't seem right."

I ask how often she encounters resistance to conversations about race among white people in Seattle who consider themselves progressive.

"I'd say every day," she says. "We're confused about it and we've been taught to be defensive about it. I don't think we should be too surprised about that."

Winn says, "Exposure is often the key thing that trips people into awareness." The old "black friend" routine. Yes, it helps to seek out friends who are racial minorities if you want to understand racial injustice. Yes, this is weird. But so is the history of judging people based on something as arbitrary as skin color; we have to work with what we've got.

"After that, I think many white people are integrationists in that 'beloved community' way, but integration usually means assimilation," Winn says. "As in, you've gotta act like us for this to work. So exposure on the terms of people of color is important. At CARW, we create a space that's not a PC space. If you say something that's not cool, we say here's why language matters. That talking about it is a skill."

At the two CARW meetings I attend, nobody tells anybody that anything's not cool. But people vary in how much experience they have in talking and thinking about race. A very experienced turquoise-eyed lady who lives on Beacon Hill tells a story from her neighborhood: She'd been looking forward to meeting her nonwhite neighbors at a block party, but only the white neighbors showed up, talking about how they wished a Trader Joe's would move in. "Not a Trader Joe's!" she gasped as she told the story, laughing. "That is the definition of gentrification in Stuff White People Like."

There's a quiet, older woman at the meeting who comes across as a little more awkward, endearingly so. She mentions a cousin who went on a medical tourism trip to Costa Rica and returned with some choice racist remarks written in a family e-mail. She's struggling to find a way to talk to him about it, and this isn't the first time. "I tend to start out a little soft," she says, gently, "and it never goes anywhere. I just need some opening lines." Other CARW members help her figure out how to begin.

"The test of how racist you are is not how many people of color you can count as friends," I recall someone telling me—I can't remember who now. "It's how many white people you're willing to talk to about racism."

Through CARW, I find out about WEACT, or Work of European Americans as Cultural Teachers, a group of educators who give presentations on white antiracism in Seattle schools. The reception to these presentations varies widely depending on the school. Like, at Ballard High School, the reception tends to be disbelief and defensiveness (i.e., "What are you talking about?"), whereas at Franklin High School, students go, "Yeah, duh."

The antiracist white movement in Seattle is growing.

If you're white and you tell a white friend you're going to a community meeting about zoning or bike lanes or homelessness, that seems normal—like you might even make a difference in your little way. But try saying you're going to a meeting of white antiracists.

"Jen, people won't get it," said a white friend, an art scholar and lifelong radical whose first serious boyfriend in the 1970s was an organizer for the African Liberation Support Committee and the Black Action Society. Her father didn't know that; he already wouldn't let the guy in the house just because he was black. (My father would have done the same; my dad's attitude to the black men I've dated over the years has changed from "I forbid you" in college to "Why?" to, finally, "He's going to make a great son-in-law.") Years later, when my friend and her white partner were living in Seward Park, a white man came to their door canvassing for the NAACP.

"On some level, I felt funny that a white person was doing it," she said. "Not funny, but surprised. Or suspicious. I don't know, but I was suspicious. I guess I wondered, do you really care, or are you just paid to canvas?"

She wishes she'd asked him directly.

White people saving trees: check. Ending poverty: check. Improving racial equity: What's the catch? If you're white and talking about race, or working for the NAACP, people will ask you to explain yourself.

Doing it isn't pretty. I've made a fool of myself. I've been accused of being a race traitor. A comment on a recent Slog post I wrote reads, "You've got some issues of your own, there, sweety, and it's not the first time you've used 'white' as a pejorative. Let go of just a tiny bit of your guilt complex, and you just might find that white people can be wonderful, too."

But how would the conversation be different if Seattle were as progressive on race as it is on the environment? This city isn't as green as it should be, but at least we'd like it to be—nobody proposes color blindness when the color in question is green. And opportunities find us on a daily basis should we want to help make Seattle greener.

At my first CARW meeting, I shared a story from when I lived in the Central District. Driving the narrow streets, I'd notice that young black men would sometimes walk in the middle of the street and refuse to move for cars. They'd downright lope, slow like the South, where African American families coming to work at Boeing in the 1950s hailed from when they moved to this neighborhood—the only area of the city where they were allowed to live until the middle 1960s. To me, this loping was a form of historical communication, intentional or not: This is our street.

But the reason this communication was happening was the opposite: Clearly, this was no longer their street, as the neighborhood steadily homogenized, growing whiter as well as wealthier by the year. I would drive slowly behind them, as in a funeral dirge. We were getting nowhere. But I noticed that often, white drivers would honk at the men to move aside. It seemed to me the reason they honked was that they were irritated at having an experience that people of color know well: that you're not just entitled to live anywhere you please, that there might be consequences. Honking was an attempt to reassert privilege.

The United States was started by white people, for white people. That's the premise of the White Privilege Conference, founded in 1999 by Eddie Moore Jr., the former Bush School diversity director quoted earlier. Today, the conference is held in a different city each year, and where it used to bring maybe a couple hundred people, now more than 1,500 attend.

"It is not a conference designed to attack, degrade, or beat up on white folks," its website reads.

"There's some pancakes I'm not gonna be able to flip over," Moore says. "But what I say up front is that what whiteness does, as a structure, is to limit your ability to listen to people of color, to hear people of color, to believe people of color. I would encourage people to embrace that as true, and then start to work through it—and to use me as a resource. I'm not trying to villainize anybody."

So one answer to the question What can I do? is simple: Listen. Believe.

"I had to stop talking to white people about race, because I kept getting retraumatized," an African American friend told me about her days as a diversity trainer. "They just wanted to talk about why they weren't racist."

As Moore argues, segregation—whether enforced or voluntary—teaches us to disbelieve racism. I grew up in a middle-class white suburban neighborhood. Although we never had a black family over for dinner, every house on our street hosted black men doing perp walks through our living rooms on the news. I didn't realize the contradiction until much later—that our seemingly all-white existence was predicated on keeping other people other.

"It's really important to recognize that race affects everything you do—and that to act otherwise is just naive," says Julie Nelson, the director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (she's white; her predecessor was an African American woman).

Every city has one of these Offices for Civil Rights, to deal with legal antidiscrimination claims, but Seattle has an additional arm of government (only two and a half full-time positions, but supported by a small army of volunteers) devoted to racial justice, called the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI). It began in 2006—it was the first of its kind in the nation—in response to an anti–affirmative action initiative sponsored by Tim Eyman. (Thank you, Tim Eyman.)

At least in Seattle, racial balancing is a compelling goddamn state interest. The RSJI is officially anti-color-blind. Not finding a racially equal world, it does not pretend at one. The city worked around the fact that Eyman's initiative specifically disallowed "quotas" or "set asides"—rather, the city strengthened the conditions of eligibility for getting city contracts by using the terms that are allowed in order to do the same thing: "good faith efforts" and "aspirational goals." The result has been a rise in contracts to minority-owned firms. Based on statistics that show that racial minorities in Seattle are still less likely than whites to hold diplomas and college degrees, the RSJI worked to remove unnecessary degree requirements from city jobs, which earned the RSJI a mocking on the local Fox News (a sign you're doing a good job). The RSJI reaches into every department. It influenced Seattle City Light to change its streetlights policy, which used to be replaced on a call-and-complain basis—a system that works fine in affluent, native-English-speaking communities where people know to look on a light pole, call the provided number, and trust that the city will come out to fix the problem. Now streetlights are changed on a fixed rotation that begins in the South End.

None of this is perfect—and more people of color still work in lower-paying jobs in the city's own 10,000-strong workforce, Nelson says—but at least the City of Seattle acts like it recognizes the existence of racism.

Nelson's office high up in the municipal building is full—really, full—of paintings by the African American street artist Darryl, who for years has been sitting on corners throughout the city, selling his scrawled paintings on cardboard. They say things like "What in the hell WRONG with my ass." (My fiancé bought one that sits in our living room and reads, "100 YEARS OF BLUE MOONS.") I didn't imagine I'd see the phrase "What in the hell WRONG with my ass" scrawled across anyone's office in this tower high above the city, but the sound of Darryl's voice way up here emphasizes the distance down to the street.

What Nelson says is this: If you're white, you have to own it. None of this I'm-not- white, I'm-beyond-it-and-I'm-Norwegian stuff. White people have to see race according to the terms they actually benefit from. Not that whiteness is a monolith, any more than nonwhiteness is. As Mab Segrest writes: "Women are less white than men, gay people are less white than straight people, poor people less white than rich people, Jews than Christians, and so forth." But what might matter, what should matter, is that whiteness is a real force that you've personally benefited from in one way or another if you're white.

The work of art that illustrates this story you're reading, by Seattle sculptor Sean Johnson, is two halves of two couches, one painted white and one painted black (the couch started out brown), sawed from their wholes and set next to each other. They don't balance right, so you can't sit on them, and there's a gaping hole between them. The title is False Identity. Johnson is half black, half white, and originally from Columbus, Ohio. He says Seattle's racism is unlike the racism anywhere else, because Seattleites act like they're above it.

"I've had a conversation [about privilege with someone] like once a week for a while now," Johnson says. "It's a denial that's almost more offensive than somebody just coming out and saying a racist word to us. I've been arguing about this in a bar and been thrown against the coals like I don't know what I'm talking about—that there's no way Seattle's racist, there's no way Seattle's segregated—yet I'm the only black person in the room. Yeah, it is."

He goes on, "I have this friend from Mississippi, and we were both saying that we've never encountered anything like it before. There's a collective thought that it's a progressive place, so that everything has been done to make things equal, and any form of 'No, it's not enough' is either greeted with passive-aggressiveness or 'No, you don't know what you're talking about.'"

"Remember: Seattle doesn't have a race issue," Tali Hairston says, laughing, during a pause in a heated public conversation about race at Taproot Theatre in June. Hairston, a Rainier Valley native who directs Seattle Pacific University's John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development, is descended from white plantation owners and black slaves. His family was the subject of the 2000 book The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White.

The production at Taproot, Brownie Points, concerned an African American woman, a Jewish woman, and a white woman who go on a camping trip and end up debating race, religion, and motherhood. The director of the play had organized this public talk about race because the same audience that had flocked to an anti-Nazi play before this one now was telling her race issues seemed passé (and not buying tickets).

Backstage during rehearsals for Brownie Points, Hairston had asked each cast member how important race had been for them growing up. Their rankings, on a scale of 1 to 10, ranged from 2 (a white actress) to 10 (an African American actress).

"Your life story produces a racial filter," he explains in a conversation after the panel. "It might be a lens so thick that everything gets drawn into looking like it's about race, or so thin that when someone says something is racial, you go, oh hell no, it's not. As a white person, you have to own the development of your own racial lens. Because whether you're aware of it or not, you have one."

It reminds me of something said by the white man sitting on the other end of the panel, Ron Ruthruff, a close friend and neighbor of Hairston's.

"The number 7 bus tells me things about myself," Ruthruff had said.

"Seattle people, we are really nice on the outside," he said. "The problem, I would argue, is that many of the things we struggle with regarding race in Seattle are covert. What do I see? I'll be really honest. I see two school districts in Seattle, one in the north end, one in the south end. You know what kids in the community call Garfield? They call it the slave ship, because the white kids are on the top two floors and the black kids are on the bottom two floors. I see my son walk into a classroom with his [African American] best friend [Hairston's son], one receiving the benefit of the doubt, the other being questioned—same thing in a movie theater."

Ruthruff pointed over to Hairston, wearing a suit; Ruthruff wore jeans. "He can't wear jeans and get taken seriously," Ruthruff said. "Tali can't carry no plastic bag on an airplane. In our neighborhood, I'm affirmed for living in the Rainier Valley. Meanwhile, people look at Tali and say, 'You're still in the Rainier Valley? We thought you were moving on up.'"

(Ruthruff's mention of Hairston's formal dress reminded me of the time recently when NPR's Michele Norris, an African American woman, tried to explain to Steve Scher, KUOW's white morning-talk-show host, that her parents felt they always had to make sure their kids were dressed better than the white kids in the mostly white neighborhood where they grew up. Scher—perhaps the archetype of the unaccountable Seattle white liberal—asked Norris if she saw that as an opportunity.)

On the number 7 bus, which runs from Rainier Beach to downtown, a woman once scolded Ruthruff for calling a young African American kid a boy. He was a boy, and Ruthruff almost ignored the woman because she was drunk. But he was feeling open, and instead he asked her to tell him more. She explained that masters used the term "boy" to belittle slaves; it's still a charged word for black males of all ages. That was 25 years ago, and Ruthruff is still riding that bus in the same spirit. "I think for many of us, we have to just keep listening," he said. "Could we as white people be willing to be wrong? Could that just be okay?"

After talking to Hairston, I approach a young African American man I'm overhearing. "I'd love to interview you; you're so eloquent," I tell him, immediately hearing myself sound like one of those people who said candidate Obama was so well-behaved (well-groomed, polite, pick your nice adjective) for a black man.

"I can't believe I just called you eloquent," I say. He gives me a knowing look, we both laugh, and start talking.

"Three hundred years of affirmative action for white people," is how author and activist Sharon Martinas sums up American history.

The original "whites"—well-bred, high-class people, not those dirty Irish or Italians—were based on someone's dim memory of the beauty of women from Georgia, on the Black Sea, historian Nell Irvin Painter writes in her new book, The History of White People. (The word "Caucasian" might have been "Georgian," except that the German man who coined it knew there was an area called "Georgia" in the nascent United States, and didn't want to confuse people!) Layers of ridiculousness piled up, like a lie compounding. Science was pushed and pulled. Tomes full of charts and graphs demonstrate that the race scientist's most sophisticated tool for centuries was—wait for it—measuring human heads with a ruler. True.

African American scholar Cornel West suggested in 2008 that the somewhat more wounded, struggling Americans of the 2000s rather than the Americans of, say, the 1950s, are well-positioned to feel race. After 9/11, "for the first time in the whole nation, my fellow citizens had the blues across the board: they felt unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, hated for who they are. It's a new experience for a lot of Americans."

He continued, "It's a very American thing, in many ways, to be sentimental, to create your little world of make-believe, live in your bubble. And then sooner or later—like Wall Street—boom! Here comes reality. Boom, here comes history. Boom, here comes mortality."

Right around September 11 was when a handful of white people began the current movement of white antiracism in Seattle—and not too soon. I can't help but think that in many ways, the natural white allies for the needed next generation of racial justice work—progressives who still may not have heard of CARW or antiracism—are instead unwittingly playing into the hands of race-baiting right-wingers simply by remaining silent.

"Diversity, at least in the short run, seems to bring out the turtle in all of us," Rich Benjamin writes in his 2009 book Searching for Whitopia, in which he spent a year in the growing, increasingly white neighborhoods that are creepily cropping up all over the country. A 2008 study from the Pew Research Center showed that racial segregation in this country is worse than income-level segregation.

Is Seattle in danger of becoming a whitopia? The largest swaths of racial minorities are now living far north and far south, keeping racial separations alive, for various reasons, economic and otherwise. In some ways, we don't seem to want to live in racially mixed neighborhoods. Instead, we consume polarizing simplifications. In May, a study by Harvard and Tufts researchers made headlines around the world. The study was called "Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing," and came to the stunning conclusion that white people believe they are the real victims of contemporary racism (reverse racism). But look closer at the study—it surveyed 417 people total. You can fit more people than that on some buses. The sample was not even close to statistically significant. Yet like the idea of Seattle as a "white city," word about it spread fast.

"Our racial thinking needs a truly twenty-first-century upgrade," Benjamin writes. "Identity politics is letting America down, on the one hand. Race and structural racism still matter, on the other."

"Rather than thoughtfully discussing race," he writes, "Americans love to reduce racial politics to feelings and etiquette. It's the personal and dramatic aspects of race that obsess us, not the deeply rooted and currently active political inequalities. That's our predicament: Racial debate, in public and private, is trapped in the sinkhole of therapeutics."

There's a riddle at the heart of our racial lives, he writes: "It's common to have racism without racists." He means the redneck, Deliverance-style kind—easy to identify, easy to marginalize.

How else to explain a generation of people who voted for Obama, and who cried tears of happiness at what his election meant, but are doing nothing to eliminate racial inequality where we live?

"Awash in its racial conundrum, America has delightful people who are perfectly comfortable with widening segregation and yawning socioeconomic inequality that often breaks along racial lines," Benjamin writes. "Let's call that a problem." recommended

 

Comments (341) RSS

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415
Its amazing how poorly commenters read the articles before commenting. For example, there must be 50 posts from people (including someone who was supposedly in her class) who think that when she says racism she means a worldview predicated on the belief that there are various races with distinct traits and with some that are "better" than others. That is a definition of racism, but clearly not the one she meant. She just meant prejudice based on race. I.e., an unfair or illogical feeling of dislike towards someone based on race. So anyone who has ever had an unfair thought about someone that was at least partially because of their race meets that definition of "racist." And really, everybody meets that definition.

I wish I could remember who said it or find the exact quote, but someone somewhere said something that I thought was illuminating. Basically, that most modern racism is not a patently racist worldview (like the klan) but simply being more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to someone like you and more likely to be suspicious of someone not like you.
Posted by brent.b on January 9, 2014 at 11:27 AM · Report this
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Trying to listen through the automatic tendency to become defensive and angry is frustrating, and also difficult. But when you ask yourself why you're so angry at someone for having something horrible happen to them, it really brings home the point that oppressions really are systemic, and that all of us are molded by those systemic forces to react in utterly illogical ways.

How much sense does the idea "The bad things repetitively happening to you in consistent ways are not the only bad things happening. All kinds of things happen. Many things happen in consistent and measurable patterns. Because this is a common metaproblem, it is not a bug, but a feature of the universe, and fixing it would probably break some metaphysical (if not actual, down to the quantum level, really physical) so the only thing to do is ignore it."

Much of this thread is devoted is devoted to one of these two reactions; it's terrifying.
Posted by MsCatonic on January 9, 2014 at 12:55 AM · Report this
413
While most people find it awkward to talk about race, I talk about it openly. Some people, even my teachers, have told me not bring up that "subject," because it makes them uncomfortable. Because of growing up in a dominantly white suburb, race was an issue that almost no one, including my "friends," wanted to talk about. My school isn't exactly what you call diverse. About 55% of the kids are white, 40-42% of he kids are black, and 5-3% other. When I first called my self biracial, I was told I wasn't by white, black, and half white and black people. To those people, the only races that existed where white and black. Even the teachers do nothing, or are even racist themselves towards the 45% of people that make up our school. I get called "chink" and "jap." People ask my why I'm always squinting or why I don't open my eyes. I'm asked if I speak English in my school. Because people are afraid to bring up the topic of racism, nobody does anything about it. The first step to solving your problems, is to address them.
-- a half asian, half white, racially offended girl
Posted by annnnnniekimmmmmie on January 8, 2014 at 3:50 PM · Report this
412
A Short History of Racial Segregation in American Housing:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-ar…

And, a longer one - phenomenal and absolutely worth your time:

http://isabelwilkerson.com/
Posted by Oakland Chef on January 2, 2014 at 9:23 PM · Report this
Texas10R 411
Apart from the fact that the U.S.A. was originally predicated on the conquest, subjugation, and mass expropriation of cultural heritage and basic human rights of the people who already lived here, those who were forcibly brought here, and those who were not white male "landowners," it might be well for an academic such as Eddie Moore Jr., the Bush School's outgoing director of diversity, to avoid such stereotype-perpetuating phrases as "There's really no skills [sic] being developed to shift the conversation."

David Alan Grier and Keenen Ivory Wayans fans must love that quotation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Izpa9D7c7…
Posted by Texas10R on January 2, 2014 at 10:24 AM · Report this
410
Why attempt to turn every discussion of race into a discussion about class?Because then we won't have to face it in ourselves. It's another way to deny that systemic racism exists. Who is MORE likely to be poor and homeless in America? Blacks. Period. End of discussion.

Now why is that?
Posted by quinkygirl on December 27, 2013 at 2:29 PM · Report this
409
I lived in China and guess what, everyone on TV and everyone in management or government was CHINESE despite the fact that many foreigners live in China. Some of them (like the, ironically, "white" Russian minorities whom my Chinese boss called "uneducated peasants and whores") for multiple generations.

I think this is the case everywhere -- the dominant ethnicity has structural privileges. Within Africa, some tribes are more privileged than others within the same country. It's something that a lot of people keep getting uptight about, but besides having awkward conversations, I'm not seeing a whole lot of practical solutions offered aside from trying to "educate" people about their privilege - how's that working out for you? LOL! Why not work to reduce it instead of empty moralizing?

The same people who like to go around shaming others and feeling holier-than-thou would probably strongly object to practical solutions that would increase racial equality -- such as, say, real hate speech laws (jail for using the N-word) and nationalizing public schools (no more of this community schools, community property tax b.s.). and ending the racist jury system.
Posted by dniedrauer on December 20, 2013 at 1:39 AM · Report this
407
This article is so idiotic I don't even know how to start debunking it.

In the first place, this sort of "aren't we all really racist" guilt-tripping is nothing new. The piece shows neither insight nor originality.

If "racism" - whatever that means to Jen Graves - is really so universal, so pervasive and so durable, then perhaps "racism" is a part of being human, and we should embrace it, not fear it. What is wrong with feeling kinship towards your kinfolk?

RDeW
Posted by Riley DeWiley on July 20, 2013 at 10:47 PM · Report this
406
I think White people should figure out a way to seperate from other races. We don't do well around them and they obviously don't do well around us. We are happier on our own. I dont think 1000 years of affirmitive action would be enough.
Posted by marieonlongisland on July 14, 2013 at 6:16 PM · Report this
405
I don't enjoy being around Black people, especially Black women. Their manners and behaviors are unpleasant. I wish I didn't have to work with them.I don't believe race is just the color of your skin.
Posted by marieonlongisland on July 14, 2013 at 6:06 PM · Report this
404
In my opinion it's more about behavior than anything.There's a reason that areas that are mostly color are higher in crime that areas that are mostly white.Studies prove this is true with few exceptions.I don't have dislike for anyone based on skin color.I moved from an area that was dominantly black and hispanic,as i got sick and tired of hearing the boomcars and observing people hanging out all hours of the night,not to mention the high amount of crime and just all around bad behavior/I'm now living in a small rural area,mostly white,quiet and serene.my white flight is considered as being racism,but i'm around people like myself and have lost the stress i was drowning in when living in my previous location.so what is racism and what is logical preference.Should i have remained where i was and tolerated the behavior for the sake of diversity?should i have searched out a quieter,crime free but equally as mixed area in the name of diversity?i believe racism is often times incorrectly redefined.
Posted by djteel on July 4, 2013 at 7:40 AM · Report this
403
How can you just dismiss anti-racial-preference like that? When I see compelling data showing that, apart from socioeconomic status, race in and of itself has a significant effect on who succeeds in education and there is nothing besides racism to blame, I'll support racial preferences. I'll want them to be standardized, of course, but I'll support them. So far, socioeconomic preferences look fine to me, and because of minorities (except Asian and Jewish people) having lower incomes than non-Jewish whites, such measures would disproportionately help them out anyway.

Foisting a bullshit concept of "white-male-ness" onto every indicator of success in life, however, doesn't do it for me.

Racism is terrible. I've seen it, I've broken up fights based on it, and I've even experienced it, and yes, I'm white (no, it wasn't just a fancified "check your privilege"; it was actually racism). It's dehumanizing to everyone involved. But you can't blame everything on it.
Posted by PigeonPugWidget on April 25, 2013 at 8:02 PM · Report this
402
Stumbled upon this and posted on my Facebook page for my site - http://www.transracialparenting.com. I lived in San Francisco for 16 years (I'm from New Orleans and am back home now) and I was having a FB conversation on race with a former colleague there who said, "Thankfully I live in San Francisco where racism isn't an issue." I almost fell off my desk chair - are there any blacks living in San Francisco, um, no, most people of color live on the other side of the Bay. The Hispanics are ghettoized in the Mission and has anyone heard of Asian Privilege? It really floors me that the U.S. thinks that New Orleans is the ONLY place with a race problem after seeing images from the 2005 Federal Flood. I'm happy to see there are like minded white people in the PNW who are actually taking the charge on this very serious issues in our country. Bravo.
Posted by Transracial Parenting on April 7, 2013 at 1:21 PM · Report this
400
To me the racists are the ones who bring it up. MLK taught me to judge a person on the content of his/her character. This is natural for me. People who look at groups who don't perform well as a group need to realize that everyone paves their own road in their lives.

Dr. Benjamin Carson, a leading world renown brain surgeon is black and grew up in a poor uneducated neighborhood. He rose up, got a good education, was a moral man, and suceeded. Why is it that the people who focus on this "white priveledge" discount personal responsibility these days? Regardless of color, Dr. Benjamin Carson made it big time, Condoleeza Rice, Eric Holder, and countless others showed us all that racism is thing of the past. Things are as they are. Whites have a higher IQ than blacks on average, Africa is pathetic..can anyone acknowledge these facts? Rome 2000 years ago was beautiful with great architecture, art etc, while in many parts of Africa, people live in giant birds nests. With the lower IQ, on average, this means that blacks will need to study and perservere. My father wasn't too bright. He told me that he had to study much harder to get through veterinary school, but he had a strong will to succeed.
If some refuse to even learn to speak English properly, drop out of high school, fail to control themselves morally, and end up losers, whose fault is that? Whitey's? Please...this article is pathetic. There isn't one decent African nation to live in. Do you think we would be better off in Sudan? Ethiopia? Somalia?

Stop all of this nonsense. If someone drops out of school, they should pick fruit, live in a shack with an outhouse, and get a chance to go to nightschool to learn a skill to better themselves. Then they can move out of the shack and earn..(is "earn" racist?) their lifestyles. I think welfare and all of this nonsensical coddling of the losers just perpetuates the problem. We need tough love. We need to return to virtue, high moral standards, and dump this insane liberal progressive, Marxist poison mentality. Others have "made it" by their own efforts. If someone happens to have a 70 IQ, then they will have limitations because they just weren't born with high intelligence, so they can take jobs working on oil rigs, crab boats, welding etc..All very high paying jobs.
So there you have it. Smart people of any color have nothing to feel guilty about. If we create a neighborhood of thugs, drug dealers, morally deficient, lazy people..a slum, then we can get out of it by our own efforts, or live with our bad decisions.

More...
Posted by Shaniqua on March 14, 2013 at 3:38 AM · Report this
399
I stopped reading reading at "tea partyer". You write this tome about your struggle to feel better about your whiteness and then make absurd, racist assumptions about whites.

Two wongs don't make a white.

You won't find Asians wasting their time writing self-loathing garbage like this.
Posted by James0 on March 13, 2013 at 10:29 PM · Report this
396
Re: Post #373:
"Yesterday, I spent the afternoon typing quotes from Harvard University's Professor Western's "Punishment and Inequality in America" into Google Docs. If anyone doubts that irrefutable racism exists they should pause to read the following facts:"
...followed by a bunch of redundant facts about the incarceration of black men.

When you put forth incarceration as evidence of racism, one can't help but wonder if you're disingenuous or just myopic. Yes, it could be racism that causes this, but that is not the only possible explanation that would cross most people's minds.
Posted by Liberal Sans Guilt on January 6, 2013 at 6:27 PM · Report this
395
This article is a lot of "no, you don't get it" without ever explaining what it is that we don't get. In particular, no one explains why a white city is automatically a racist city. Are we just to accept this logical fallacy without question?
Posted by Liberal Sans Guilt on January 6, 2013 at 11:51 AM · Report this
393
People like Jen are a bunch of sado-masochistic intellectual-masturbation artists...
Posted by elle8 on August 24, 2012 at 5:36 AM · Report this
IsabellaByersKerr 392
"Racist is the new nigger."

Haha, that's a great line. Not true though.

I sometimes point out racism when I see it, because that's something I do, and while it might bug the racists I do it to (OK, it does tend to), it doesn't bug them nearly so much as it would if I called them 'nigger' or some equivolent (depending on ... whatever, any bigoted slur).

Also, the sentiment associated with saying to someone, "that's racist" is a lot different from the sentiment associated with saying "You're a nigger (or whatever.)" The former is to offer insight or to attempt to educate (and the fact that it rarely works doesn't seem to stop me, I still do it, will always do it, for reasons which are at the heart of this article), the latter is just generic, pointless hate speech, serves no purpose, fills no need; I dont get it, never did.

I just stopped over here, this is my first comment here ever, this seems to be a seattle place, I don't live in Seattle but Cali. I like your article but a lot of the comments are very similar to those I'm trying to get away from...elsewhere...as in, places I'm trying to get away from, haha, is this going to be possible? Time will tell.

I get accused of "white guilt," which is a kind of bizarre concept I saw mentioned in comments here, too, but that's not what it is that drives my behavior. I do not feel guilty, I simply grew up witnessing RIDICULOUS, rage driven, disgusting and mind boggling anti-black racism, and I see that it continues in America still (even though I live in Cali now and not in the heart of back SEastern America), I see it in this written trend of 'reverse-racism' silly talk and FOX whining; I see it for what it is and call it out from time to time.

I do not believe there is any such thing as anti-white racism but there is anti-white bigotry, of course, because there is anti-everything bigotry, depending on who is angry and who is talking and who likes to generalize as an excuse for being pissed off and feeling superior, assuming someone does, and someone often does.

However there is a big difference between the terms bigotry and racism, but the difference isn't really all that complicated.

The writer you quote sums it up nicely right here:

"Americans love to reduce racial politics to feelings and etiquette. It's the personal and dramatic aspects of race that obsess us, not the deeply rooted and currently active political inequalities."

While it might not feel that way at the time, the latter problem is the real problem, it's pervasive in America and pernicious and, feels like to me, quite conspicuously is just that and it's willful ignorance, seems like to me, when people decide there is some epidemic of reverse racism they want to get on a rant about (Hannity, O'Reilly or whoever). That latter matter is a lot more important than the former transient matter of feeling offended because somebody calls you something you don't like being called that day, and that's for sure.
More...
Posted by IsabellaByersKerr on August 24, 2012 at 5:20 AM · Report this
391
"Whites" grow sick of "blacks like you" shamelessly guilt-tripping them, blaming them for your group's pathetically self-created problems. We encounter to many "yous" in life... to many hostile, hateful little shits who do nothing but create tension and chaos and blame us that less than 1% of our ancestors had any involvement in 150 years ago. Oh, and your other "non-white" friends (not, they all hate your group and you all hate their group more than you all pretend to hate us, the ritual punching bag, also sometimes engage in this vile behavior.

The (reluctant) Enemy Tribe.

PS... did you white mama do all the work in raising you, like most ingrateful Mulattos? Ah, hem, Barack Hussein Obama comes to mind.
Posted by elle8 on August 23, 2012 at 6:48 PM · Report this
390
"Whites" grow sick of "blacks like you" shamelessly guilt-tripping them, blaming them for your group's pathetically self-created problems. We encounter to many "yous" in life... to many hostile, hateful little shits who do nothing but create tension and chaos and blame us that less than 1% of our ancestors had any involvement in 150 years ago. Oh, and your other "non-white" friends (not, they all hate your group and you all hate their group more than you all pretend to hate us, the ritual punching bag, also sometimes engage in this vile behavior.

The (reluctant) Enemy Tribe.
Posted by elle8 on August 23, 2012 at 6:31 PM · Report this
389
If unable to see through the misinformation from the liberal atheist liars at ABC, NBC, NPR and CBS (Comedy Central, NYT and more), then you are wayyyyyy too naive for teaching people anything beyond mechanical stuff like auto repair.

I am putting in a link to my 3-minute video about the lies revolving around the Trayvon Martin reporting. Please take a look. Then peek at my other video about NBC News trying to get white people killed in their doctoring of the 911 call so that dumb liberals will reinforce their false belief in whitey being more racist than or even as racist as many many in the black population today.

Racist black violence and a media coverup vs the Trayvon Martin propaganda frenzy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7vNsTi6S…

I am not embarrassed to be white at all, even when in consideration of having gotten the shit kicked out of me by racist blacks and threatened on other occasion.

I am embarrased, however, about my years being ignorant enough for the liars in the elite media to convince me that their fake world is real. My hope is to some day read a column about your own embarrassment over the same issue.
Posted by Randal on August 7, 2012 at 11:05 AM · Report this
388
If unable to see through the misinformation from the liberal atheist liars at ABC, NBC, NPR and CBS (Comedy Central, NYT and more), then you are wayyyyyy too naive for teaching people anything beyond mechanical stuff like auto repair.

I am putting in a link to my 3-minute video about the lies revolving around the Trayvon Martin reporting. Please take a look. Then peek at my other video about NBC News trying to get white people killed in their doctoring of the 911 call so that dumb liberals will reinforce their false belief in whitey being more racist than or even as racist as many many in the black population today.

Racist black violence and a media coverup vs the Trayvon Martin propaganda frenzy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7vNsTi6S…

I am not embarrassed to be white at all, even when in consideration of having gotten the shit kicked out of me by racist blacks and threatened on other occasions.

I am embarrased, however, about my years being ignorant enough for the liars in the elite media to convince me that their fake world is real. My hope is to some day read a column about your own embarrassment over the same issue.
Posted by Randal on August 7, 2012 at 10:58 AM · Report this
shurenka 386
You know it's a good article when it's still getting comments this many months later. I read this when I first came out and was impressed by it. Race is a conversation more of us need to be having.

I strongly agree with @382. I do feel that perhaps Ms. Graves was going a bit far in requesting her students accept the label of racist. It's true that most people have had racist/homophobic/sexist thoughts, but racism is a conscious doctrine. Most people not only don't want to be perceived as racist, they want to be less like racists -- to have fewer racist tendencies or thoughts.
Posted by shurenka on April 9, 2012 at 8:51 AM · Report this
385
This comment was made by Orv: "I actually tend to avoid interacting with people who are minorities because I know that they'll perceive me as racist, as privileged, as someone who doesn't understand their world."

So you avoid us?? That is more disturbing than overt racism.
Posted by tk120 on April 8, 2012 at 10:02 AM · Report this
384
This comment was made by Orv: "I actually tend to avoid interacting with people who are minorities because I know that they'll perceive me as racist, as privileged, as someone who doesn't understand their world."

So you avoid us?? That is more disturbing than overt racism.
Posted by tk120 on April 8, 2012 at 9:51 AM · Report this
383
I look forward to all you hand-wringing pussies being beaten half to death by a black flash mob that couldn't give two shits about your good intentions.If one were to do a demographic breakdown of which part of the taxpayer base spends the most on charities and "community enrichment"programs,then juxtapose that with the percentages of white-on-black crime as opposed to black-on-black crime,one might reasonably conclude that NO ONE,not even other black people,are nicer to black people than white people.
Posted by FartOnTheGuiltBrigade on April 5, 2012 at 12:04 AM · Report this
382
I am a big proponent of separating racism from the label "racist" -- part of what blinds people to their own racist assumptions and biases is the idea that they couldn't possibly entertain any racism, because they are not a racist. It's an artifact of the history of the civil rights movement: The earlier battles were against easily identifiable bad guys like lynch mobs and klansmen and segregationists, and as such we are too easily convinced that racism takes only that form. People clench up and resist when they feel like they're being called racists, because that's a term they identify with this sort of overt antisocial behavior, and justifiably so. I find it much more helpful to understand that one can make a racist assumption even if one is not a "racist" under such broad definitions, and that such an approach is much more conducive to active examination of one's own thoughts and actions.
Posted by HunterJE on March 30, 2012 at 4:33 PM · Report this
380
I loved this article... however, your blatant prejudice of any so called "right winger" hurts your credibility and my respect for you as a progressive and anti-racist because you yourself, a pioneer of racial equality are judging people based on their political affiliations? Not cool.
Posted by thenontraditionallymixedone on January 19, 2012 at 5:45 PM · Report this
interestingstuffisgoodstuff 379
I thought back to this essay after reading the NYT today

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/opinio…
Posted by interestingstuffisgoodstuff on December 18, 2011 at 9:09 AM · Report this
378
so what if I am half white...half non-white....

but raised in a single home by the non-white half

but I look white as snow....

not everyone is racist...everyone is a bigot to a point but the bigotry may have nothing to do with ones culture or race..but ones lifestyle choice..

so many people that feel guilty for doing nothing wrong...

Posted by BURN on October 19, 2011 at 7:20 PM · Report this
376
I think it's important to create a less harsh word than 'racist' to describe the blindness to racism that is so prevalent in this decade. Racism is a form of ignorance. But shocking people into listening by calling them racist might not be an effective way to get their attention. Offended people rarely listen, and therein lies the problem. Citizens of all races, classes, and creeds need to listen to one another. Yes, it takes more time than making a snap judgment based on complexion, accent, or labels, but this is what is needed to get rid of the erosive damage that passive aggressive PC culture inevitably leads to. (Case in point, re-segregation of American schools while no one was noticing).
Posted by sabragrace on October 1, 2011 at 9:11 AM · Report this
375
I live in Portland, and I am appalled each time I note the racial demographics of the passengers on the #6 bus as it heads down MLK Boulevard to North Portland. During rush hour, there are almost never more than 1-3 white people in a bus with so many people that there is no standing room. The Alberta neighborhood and others are growing more and more gentrified, yet when I told a family friend that I lived in North Portland, his eyes grew wide and he asked me if there are a lot of black people in that area of town. I was shocked. Portland has an ugly history of racism and segregation, as does all of America.

Thank you for the amazing article! I especially appreciated your comment about green being a less controversial color to talk about. This is also very true in Portland. I wish that there was more of a conversation about race in Portland. And while in Portland and Seattle we see many subtle expressions of racism, there are also many Neo-Nazi groups in the Pacific Northwest. Visit the beautiful Olympic Peninsula to find trucks and houses proudly sporting Dixie's flag.
Posted by sabragrace on October 1, 2011 at 8:55 AM · Report this
374
@Comment #363

"I feel saddened that it's necessary to have white people on my side to make other white people understand their privilege"

To the saddened white people who are troubled by "white privilege" I wonder how much of history have you actually read. I put "white privilege" in quotes because in historical context white privilege disappears into the abyss. It's a pale cloud in the sky.

Savagery, ruthlessness and hatred has been demonstrated by all the peoples of the world. And that is truly sad. But what is the serious argument for singling out whites?

White people - Stop apologizing!
Posted by månesteiner on September 27, 2011 at 3:00 PM · Report this
373
@Comment #363

"I feel saddened that it's necessary to have white people on my side to make other white people understand their privilege"

To the saddened white people who are troubled by "white privilege" I wonder how much of history have you actually read. I put "white privilege" in quotes because in historical context white privilege disappears into the abyss.

Savagery, ruthlessness and hatred has been demonstrated in all the peoples of the world. And that is truly sad. But.why single out whites?

White people - Stop apologizing!

patrick
Posted by månesteiner on September 27, 2011 at 2:32 PM · Report this
372
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon typing quotes from Harvard University's Professor Western's "Punishment and Inequality in America" into Google Docs. If anyone doubts that irrefutable racism exists they should pause to read the following facts:

• Among black male high school dropouts aged twenty to thirty-five, we estimate that 36 percent were in prison or jail in 1996....

• We also found that black men in their early thirties at the end of the 1990s were more likely to have been to prison than to have graduated from college with a four-year degree....

• Between 1970 and 2003, state and federal prisons grew sevenfold to house 1.4 million convicted felons serving at least one year behind bars, and typically much longer. Offenders held in county jails, awaiting trial or serving short sentences, added another seven hundred thousand by 2003. In addition to the incarcerated populations, another 4.7 million people were under probation and parole supervision. The entire correctional population of the United States totaled nearly seven million in 2003, around 6 percent of the adult male population.

• The basic brute fact of incarceration in the new era of mass imprisonment is that African Americans are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than whites....

• The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 2004, over 12 percent of black men aged twenty-five to twenty-nine were behind bars, in prison or jail. Among black men born in the late 1960s who received no more than a high school education, 30 percent had served time in prison by their mid-thirties; 60 percent of high school drop outs had prison records.

• By 2000, over a million black children - 9 percent of those under eighteen - had a father in prison or jail. In around half of all cases, these fathers were living with their children at the time they were incarcerated....

• So marginal have these men become, that the most disadvantaged among them are hidden from statistics on wages and employment. The economic situation of young black men - measured by wage and employment rates - appeared to improve through the economic expansion of the 1990s, but this appearance was wholly an artifact of rising incarceration rates....

• Perhaps more than adding to inequality between blacks and whites, the prison boom has driven a wedge into the black community, where those without college education are now traveling a path of unique disadvantage that increasingly separates then from college-educated blacks....

• In the federal system, three out of five prisoners by 1997 were drug offenders....

• In 2001, Britain still recorded the highest incarceration rate in western Europe, but the American imprisonment rate was more than five times greater.... Indeed, to find close competitors to the American penal system we must look beyond the longstanding democracies of western Europe, to Russia (628 per hundred thousand) and South Africa (400).

• High incarceration rates among less educated, less skilled, financially disadvantaged, and minority men are unmistakable. The 1997 survey of state and federal prisoners shows that state inmates average fewer than eleven years of schooling. A third were not working at the time of their incarceration, and the average wage of the remainder is much lower than that of other men with the same level of education.... Black men are six to eight times more likely to be in prison than whites....

This is an important article. Thanks to Jen Graves for taking the time to write it.

Ari Kohn
Seattle, WA 98145-0007
More...
Posted by arikohn on September 26, 2011 at 6:14 AM · Report this
371
I don't care about if it hurts people's feelings if they are called racist, or really any of this minor stuff. I'm in NYC and I see a city where depending on race and class people live in vastly different worlds: some worlds those of blacks, latinos, Asians, Native Americans, gay people, trans-gendered people, the disabled and others are filled with more PAIN and SUFFERING and that makes me angry! Why is it unfair? Is all of this talk about equality and freedom just a buch of feel-good make-believe talk? It seems like it is.

I tried reading the comments here and it was hard so many of them are so self-absorbed. Who cares if you personally have been identified as racist? Why is it so important to say that it's "really class" that causes the problems? It isn't just "class" --just because class can insulate a tiny fraction of minorities from prejudice (but not completely) dosen't mean that race isn't one of the primary factors that prevents people from moving up economically and socially. Don't you give a damn aout the way that the construct of race and the privilege that goes with it is hurting people? Saying it's just class shuts down a critical conversation.

I'm a young black woman, I'm straight, I have more education than average and I was pretty lucky growing up. I have so many childhood friends who are smarter than than most the white people who are all around me with the best jobs and the most opportunity. But these minds are trapped in poverty or caught-up in dead-ends. Some of them are in regular physical pain. Some of them live with the inadequacy of wasted potential and dreams and the suffering that goes along with that. It sucks. It sucks for all of us because if these brilliant people were where they are supposed to be we'd have a better nation. I'm certain there are other scattered in Latino communities, and elsewhere too. Racism cripples the potential of our nation.

I escaped that fate, but not because I'm the very best, Mostly because my grandfather owned his own farm and we had the privilege that came with land ownership that, and some hard work, and some luck.

But, people work harder than I ever have, harder than many of the people people reading this article ever have, they have good minds and good hearts, they are the people our nation is missing in clinics and board rooms in classrooms and government and we never know about them and they still end up suffering-- since the sorting mechanism in our nation for who will suffer sorts the black and browns ones in to the suffering pile more often than not.

The mechanism is white privilege and racism.
More...
Posted by aflyingthing on September 25, 2011 at 10:08 PM · Report this
370
I don't care about if it hurts people's feelings if they are called racist, or really any of this minor stuff. I'm in NYC and I see a city where depending on race and class people live in vastly different worlds: some worlds those of blacks, latinos, Asians, Native Americans, gay people, trans-gendered people, the disabled and others are filled with more PAIN and SUFFERING and that makes me angry! Why is it unfair? Is all of this talk about equality and freedom just a buch of feel-good make-believe talk? It seems like it is.

I tried reading the comments here and it was hard so many of them are so self-absorbed. Who cares if you personally have been identified as racist? Why is it so important to say that it's "really class" that causes the problems? It isn't just "class" --just because class can insulate a tiny fraction of minorities from prejudice (but not completely) dosen't mean that race isn't one of the primary factors that prevents people from moving up economically and socially. Don't you give a damn aout the way that the construct of race and the privilege that goes with it is hurting people? Saying it's just class shuts down a critical conversation.

I'm a young black woman, I'm straight, I have more education than average and I was pretty lucky growing up. I have so many childhood friends who are smarter than than most the white people who are all around me with the best jobs and the most opportunity. But these minds are trapped in poverty or caught-up in dead-ends. Some of them are in regular physical pain. Some of them live with the inadequacy of wasted potential and dreams and the suffering that goes along with that. It sucks. It sucks for all of us because if these brilliant people were where they are supposed to be we'd have a better nation. I'm certain there are other scattered in Latino communities, and elsewhere too. Racism cripples the potential of our nation.

I escaped that fate, but not because I'm the very best, Mostly because my grandfather owned his own farm and we had the privilege that came with land ownership that, and some hard work, and some luck.

But, people work harder than I ever have, harder than many of the people people reading this article ever have, they have good minds and good hearts, they are the people our nation is missing in clinics and board rooms in classrooms and government and we never know about them and they still end up suffering-- since the sorting mechanism in our nation for who will suffer sorts the black and browns ones in to the suffering pile more often than not.

The mechanism is white privilege and racism.
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Posted by aflyingthing on September 25, 2011 at 10:05 PM · Report this
369
an excellent article. I have not waded through all of the comments, but add my own. As an exhibiting artist at 619 Western, i came to notice that hardly any African Americans attend art events. There is next to no art produced or shown by them. The entire art scene is irrelevant to 'people of color'. I had a painting in which an African American was depicted in a necessary but subsidiary role. Early in the evening a well-dressed white lady gave me a stern evaluation -why and how dare I? And then later in the evening the only African American attendee, chewed me a fresh one for what I thought a neutral depiction. No one objects to whatever distortions or vulgarities I may subject the 'white folks'
Posted by Dr. JohnnyWow on September 22, 2011 at 5:31 PM · Report this
368
As a working class stiff type white guy, I get to work with "people of color" (they would all burst out laughing if I called them that)every day. We talk about, acknowledge, and joke about race and cultural differences all the time.

I thank God daily that I was born white. In many ways, what little I have has been handed to me in great part because of my race. As lazy and no account as I am, were I any other race, I'd be screwed.

And, by the way, there is still plenty of "genuine" racism out there - you just have to know where to look and what code speak to begin the conversation. Being white, I have the keys to this club, and can join in at any time.

Posted by kbatku on September 21, 2011 at 11:00 PM · Report this
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@319

The dictionary definition of racism doesn't mean shit to people who are actually affected by it. What else should we call it if people of color are systemically excluded and held back for no other reason then race, an invented cultural construct with no basis in biology, whether the white people are aware of it or not?

I agree that anti-racist work is more difficult because anti-racists ask us to consider a different definition of racism than the standard dictionary one that we're raised with. So if it will make it easier for you to understand, copy and paste the text of the article into Word or Google Docs or whatever you've got handy. Do a find & replace, changing "racism" to "the oppression of people who are not white through a variety of legal, institution, systematic, personal, sometimes violent, often non-violent means." The re-read.
Posted by Aaron Andersen on September 21, 2011 at 2:25 PM · Report this
366
I think this is a very good piece, as somebody who has just begun a journey into white antiracism (and definitely I relate to that "conversion" sentiment).

But I read the comments and just think over and over and over again that it is extremely hard for people (e.g. Tricky in comment 6 and 8) to unlatch from the very weak, simplistic definition of racism that we're usually taught as children. If racism is nothing but personal prejudice and bigotry based on race, then we can become non-racist by having parents who campaigned for civil rights, as suggested by the well-meaning and defensive comment 233. It takes a lot of work to start to understand how racism is institutionalized and built into the power structures that make life easier for white people, REGARDLESS of whether we want it, like it, or even know it.

It also takes a lot of personal work to get past the blame game, and realize that we can benefit from some evil shit that we didn't intentionally establish, and we still should be accountable for it.

As a simple example, if my grandfather made a lot of money as a mobster, and then passed it onto my parents, paid for an excellent education for me, and gave us an inheritance of real estate and business connections, then that means I'm sitting on a lot of ill-gotten wealth. It's not my fault, and I can't undo it. But that doesn't make it okay for me to just sit on it, say it's mine now, and I wasn't in the mob, so leave me alone and stop calling me a mobster.

The way we benefit as white people from the long years of institutional racism is harder to pin down than the mobster example, because it's in the air we breathe. We don't notice it, because it just is the environment in which we live. But if we benefit from it, we are responsible for it. That doesn't mean we're bad people or are deserving of blame. It just means our inheritance is complicated and messy, not clean and pure. And we're still responsible for it.
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Posted by Aaron Andersen on September 21, 2011 at 2:01 PM · Report this
363
Thank you so much for writing this. And thank you so much to CARW. Here's to hoping more chapters open up around the country, because we sorely need it. As a PoC, I feel saddened that it's necessary to have white people on my side to make other white people understand their privilege, but I'm glad that there are people willing to do it and to understand where they fit in. This was eye opening for me and my own racial prejudices, too.
Posted by mclicious on September 21, 2011 at 7:21 AM · Report this
362
@361: Oligarchy is the main reason I have zero faith in mega-corporations. "Trickle down economics", since the Reagan years, have proven ineffective. Yet they still push it, like drug dealers.

And they're the ones cutting education, laying off the teachers and college professors so that none of us in the general 99% catches on.
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 21, 2011 at 2:22 AM · Report this
361
@228 Hello Kitty, welcome to the Class Warfare Zone!
sorry but I was too busy WORKING to read any of this drivel for some time, but your 'response' is full of used kitty litter...in fact, Bullshit to your entire screed-I was fighting for my damn country while you were a burden on society and wallowing in self-pity with those shitbag junkies. I have seen men better than your entire benefactors' board of directors come back as amputees,then have to fight faceless corporate bureacracies for treatment, while you were sitting on your ass in free subsidized housing.

Now pull your head out of the sand and wake up to the fact that America has a major Oligarch Problem, and it has already damn near wrecked the country- even Warren Buffett himself has publicly acknowledged this. So why do so many impoverished Americans sound like such dupes on this subject? No ma'am, I am no communist nor some 'Richie Rich' hater as you assume, and FYI I probably made and contributed more in the past 5 years than you have in your entire life.

So why am I advocating changes to the system that mean i will eventually pay more in taxes? Because I actually give a damn about my country and still believe in upholding and defending its Constitution ,including all those hard-won amendments and Bill of Rights. And I am frankly disgusted at the current degenerating state of affairs, in which I see a shocking number of my friends and family still struggling and unemployed, among them combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact the only current growth industry with stable employment seems to be doing the overseas dirty work of the empire. At some point one realizes, as a great USMC general and Medal of Honor recipient once observed, that he is really just a "high class muscle man for Wall Street and big business interests" enforcing our laws of market economics on unwilling overseas societies, with all the overt brutality and implied racism that entails.

So then, are you telling us you are a "koder" as in trying to work in the software industry, yet
"I love the rich, and I'm a happy content poor person, very poor, below poverty level even"
...no doubt you are aware that not so long ago, any software job was a golden ticket well out of poverty in this town
(before the billionaires running the industry decided to export jobs by the ton and import cheap immigrant labor, by spending millions lobbying the U.S. Congress for massive increases in H1B visas, special interest legislation and massive tax breaks)
so one can assume you are now either unemployed,or barely getting enough work to survive...and who exactly do you think trashed the economic system to the point you can't get work, and are now reduced to barely surviving in special subsidized low-income housing?

Well i'll give you a hint- it wasn't the guys like me who do the real work and pay most of the taxes: it wasn't the firefighters,or the soldiers,or the truckers...
that's right-your local, national, and global economic system was trashed by your favorite oligarchs, and yet when some plutocrat-types throw you a stale bone you fairly slobber their praises. Do you really think Tully's , or Vulcan, or the benefactor of your choice really do any do-goody-good BS out of the goodness of their downsizing, bottom line cost-cutting hearts? Have you ever seen a corporate budget spreadsheet, and what it reveals about how much more the same corporations budget for PR firms, lobbyists, lawyers and marketing? A few pennies on the PR dollar occasionally tossed toward the poor is some of the best public relations marketing corporate America can buy.
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Posted by Count No'count on September 20, 2011 at 5:23 AM · Report this
360
How very interesting that Graves bends the truth in order to make her story seem credible. She's a true Stranger reporter. I was the student that filed the complaint about her..two years ago! And contrary to her claims, I did not compare her to Hitler nor suggest she was recruiting for White Supremacy. What I did include was that she asked the "are you a racist" question in class and when she didn't get the desired result she coaxed more people into raising their hand. She wouldn't explain why she asked the question until she was pressed into an explanation. Furthermore she made racist comments not associated with the topic. For instance, in her words, she's afraid when she sees black men on her street corner at night, and figures they are dealing drugs, which according to her "they probably are". She then told the class that she desired to adopt a black baby to "piss off" her father.

Of course, the Cornish community silenced and dismissed my complaints because Cornish itself has a problem with race issues, and in a private meeting, the Provost herself admitted to being racist!

So Jen, it seems that if you are writing about this two years out it still haunts you. Good
Posted by true on September 19, 2011 at 10:27 PM · Report this
359
Nicely written article. I really enjoyed reading it.

It's also good that comments are on - the commenters are proving most of your points. ;-)
Posted by quarkquark on September 18, 2011 at 5:08 PM · Report this
358
Nicely written article. I really enjoyed reading it.

It's also good that comments are on - the commenters are proving most of your points. ;-)
Posted by quarkquark on September 18, 2011 at 5:05 PM · Report this
357
Somebody tell the author that the server forgot her boyfriend's entree because she worked a double shift, it wasn't racially motivated!
But Seriously...
Why did King County rebrand itself using MLK's image during the housing bubble/condo gentrification? It's dishonest. King County was named after William Rufus King, who served briefly as Vice Prez. William King was prolly racist, but also prolly secretly gay with James Buchanan. Does that cancel out?
In any case please get back to your white guilt, preachy Cornish smugness. I was worried that nobody was flying the flag this week up!
Posted by HeillHipster on September 17, 2011 at 5:27 PM · Report this
356
Somebody tell the author that the server forgot her boyfriend's entree because she worked a double shift, it wasn't a racist act.
The next meal is free!
Also, why did King County rebrand their seal using MLK's image. It's dishonest, and occured at the tail end of the housing bubble/condo gentrification. King County was named after William Rufus King, who served briefly as Vice Prez. He was prolly racist, but also prolly secretly gay with James Buchanan. Now get back to your regularly scheduled smugness that comes with being an instructor at Cornish!
Posted by HeillHipster on September 17, 2011 at 5:09 PM · Report this
354
I grew up in Seattle and for 30 years always thought of it as progressive and diverse. I grew up in an area that was white and lower income so there was a different kind of opression - the opression of poverty. For the longest time I had little empathy for people who suffered from racial injustices because I felt like economic inequalities were the primary obstacles to be attacked.

Today I realize that things are more complex than my youthful oversimplifications.

It wasn't until I left Seattle for about 12 years that I saw and lived in more integratied cities. New York and London are extemely diverse, more integrated, more racist, yet more open in their dialog. Seattle seems to care more yet do less in terms of openly acknowledging and trying to address segregation in the city. I've been driving around the last two months reaquainting myself with Seattle and it's segregated. Fact. Weirdly, after living in Hackney in London and Jackson Heights Queens, two of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in either city, I find myself here, feeling uncomfortable in traditionally non-white neighborhoods.
Why? I'm trying to figure this out. Why is it that in Seattle, with its progressive idealism and liberal values, I don't feel like I'd be welcome in a neighborhood that doesn't have a white majority? Why is it when I mention looking at houses outside of a certain area the realtor rolls her eyes and says, "you have to think about the property values in THAT neighborhood? Why do I worry that if I bought a house where I could afford I might be looked at as part of the next wave of "gentrifiers" and am suddenly burdened with guilt.

I know the Seattle you write about that thinks that racism doesn't exist here because I was that person. Racism completely exists here and in this place where everyone is polite, non-confrontational, and guardedly friendly, I can imagine that most people find it more convenient to ignore.

Thank you for writing this article.
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Posted by kxft on September 16, 2011 at 1:40 PM · Report this
353
It seems that if you are white you are racist, at least to the rest of the American world. I am really tired of the double standard of certain words like “Nigger” is taboo for a white person to use however any African American can use it as he or she sees fit including in music and entertainment. That is crap at its lowest level if African Americans are really interested in fixing racism then practice what you preach! I am a middle age white male that came from a family that immigrated from Germany in the late 1890’s and never owned or participated in Slavery however I am lumped into the “white American” so I must be racist and owe the African Americans something. I didn’t have anything given to me in my life and my parents we hard working folks that took care of their children over everything else, we didn’t have anything but the basics growing up. My parents didn’t care what the fad were if you had clean clothes on you were good to go and if you wanted a pair of Nike’s rather than some no name gym shoe we had to work in the farm fields all summer to get your money to buy them. That gave me and my siblings a real education in what it is like to earn your own way. We all put ourselves through college or trade schools on our own dime and taking a lot longer.

I think that this country has done a greater disservice to the African American community by the way the welfare system works, rewarding women (not a shot at women) but reality having more children and to make more money. Plenty of White people have gone down this track as well but statiscly African Americans dominate in this area. This is truly a lack of education and taking advantage of that as well on the part of the system.
I don’t hold myself up as someone to fix this but who is? Change has to start from within, if you are raised to believe that everyone owes you everything then things won’t change but if the next generation just gets an opportunity to see that with hard work and an open mind that things can change but it took what a couple hundred years to get to this point let’s hope that change can come quicker.

Lastly everyone in this lovely country is racist to some level so making white people you escape goat isn’t going to further your agenda. There are several groups trying to open dialog about racism but many are scared to open their mouths fearing being labeled a “racist” especially if you are white. A lifelong friend of mine finally got me to go to a local NAACP meeting last year downtown and I was a minority in that meeting but my friend who is as he prefers to be called “Black” and is very proud of that wanted to me to see why we are such a stalemate. I was there for more than 2 hours and the only thing that was said over and over again was how much they wanted to make Whites pay and that nothing will change until reparations are paid. So it is more about money than working the problem and I understand this a some level being the son of a Holocaust survivor. Which can’t even be considered as the same thing, although many try. I am very proud of my Black friends and their accomplishments which were all done on their own with no help from hiring quotas or “equal opportunity” options. They like me never checked the “race” box on job applications unless required through the years. I applaud this article and did read it and I still don’t see myself as racist although most probably would base on what I write and that is your loss.
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Posted by halcares on September 15, 2011 at 10:33 PM · Report this
352
It seems that if you are white you are racist, at least to the rest of the American world. I am really tired of the double standard of certain words like “Nigger” is taboo for a white person to use however any African American can use it as he or she sees fit including in music and entertainment. That is crap at its lowest level if African Americans are really interested in fixing racism then practice what you preach! I am a middle age white male that came from a family that immigrated from Germany in the late 1890’s and never owned or participated in Slavery however I am lumped into the “white American” so I must be racist and owe the African Americans something. I didn’t have anything given to me in my life and my parents we hard working folks that took care of their children over everything else, we didn’t have anything but the basics growing up. My parents didn’t care what the fad were if you had clean clothes on you were good to go and if you wanted a pair of Nike’s rather than some no name gym shoe we had to work in the farm fields all summer to get your money to buy them. That gave me and my siblings a real education in what it is like to earn your own way. We all put ourselves through college or trade schools on our own dime and taking a lot longer.

I think that this country has done a greater disservice to the African American community by the way the welfare system works, rewarding women (not a shot at women) but reality having more children and to make more money. Plenty of White people have gone down this track as well but statiscly African Americans dominate in this area. This is truly a lack of education and taking advantage of that as well on the part of the system.
I don’t hold myself up as someone to fix this but who is? Change has to start from within, if you are raised to believe that everyone owes you everything then things won’t change but if the next generation just gets an opportunity to see that with hard work and an open mind that things can change but it took what a couple hundred years to get to this point let’s hope that change can come quicker.

Lastly everyone in this lovely country is racist to some level so making white people you escape goat isn’t going to further your agenda. There are several groups trying to open dialog about racism but many are scared to open their mouths fearing being labeled a “racist” especially if you are white. A lifelong friend of mine finally got me to go to a local NAACP meeting last year downtown and I was a minority in that meeting but my friend who is as he prefers to be called “Black” and is very proud of that wanted to me to see why we are such a stalemate. I was there for more than 2 hours and the only thing that was said over and over again was how much they wanted to make Whites pay and that nothing will change until reparations are paid. So it is more about money than working the problem and I understand this a some level being the son of a Holocaust survivor. Which can’t even be considered as the same thing, although many try. I am very proud of my Black friends and their accomplishments which were all done on their own with no help from hiring quotas or “equal opportunity” options. They like me never checked the “race” box on job applications unless required through the years. I applaud this article and did read it and I still don’t see myself as racist although most probably would base on what I write and that is your loss.
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Posted by halcares on September 15, 2011 at 10:23 PM · Report this
351
(how is it that the "5th whitest city in the US" is only 66% white?)

It is too bad people continue to pretend that the US is still the same as the 1950s and in turn are causing LOADS of innocent Liberal drone kids to die from the IMMENSE racism projected at them from the actual privileged racists, the non whites.

The "progressives" on this blog will most likely meet the same fate.

Will the anti white left calls groups like the Tea Party 'racist' because they DARE to be mostly white, actual racist minority organizations like the "The Black Coffee Party" are being formed to do further harm to ANY white people who get in their way.

Posted by anti anti racist on September 15, 2011 at 8:21 PM · Report this
350
I am SOOOOOOO relieved to hear others say the samething. i had no idea what a priveledged and racist life i lived as a white, country girl. I went to the city and 6 years later married an african american man - we now have a beautiful little girl. Learning all that hubby went through, experiencing all the things we have together and watching my little girl deal with her identity - wanting to be white. Broke our hearts. As we started dealing with this, and of course all the Obama drama with most white people, we have encountered SO MUCH opposition as we try to explain to both sides the reality of what is really going one. white ppl ALWAYS deny that they are racist or that racist things are happening and always point the finger the other direction "well, black ppl need to make a move too!" usually the african american IS ready to work thing out. the whites just want to cover it up and move on. some actually think we much have taught our daughter racism in order for her to have seen this already. it's been shocking to discover. THANK YOU for writing this!
Posted by sisc on September 15, 2011 at 7:41 PM · Report this
349
"Anti racism", making self hating white people feel legitimate since 1965, that should have been the title for this article and this site at large.

How does it feel to be so stupid that you believe in 'white privilege' when "Affirmative Action" is non white privilege by its very definition and there is no white equivalent to that?

How does it feel to be so unintelligent that you believe whites have any power when we have lost the demographic advantage EVERYWHERE and yet still have no specific claim to any institutions of our own while non whites have entire countries they call their exclusive property?

It is time for "anti racist" groups to be destroyed, is is actually way past time. It is time to combat ASIAN privilege and yes BLACK privilege etc, the ONLY racial privileges that exist in the western world are for non white groups, and of course the only privileges in the non western world are for NON WHITES as well.

Posted by anti anti racist on September 15, 2011 at 7:39 PM · Report this
348
"Anti racism", making self hating white people feel legitimate since 1965, that should have been the title for this article and this site at large.

How does it feel to be so stupid that you believe in 'white privilege' when "Affirmative Action" is non white privilege by its very definition and there is no white equivalent to that?

How does it feel to be so unintelligent that you believe whites have any power when we have lost the demographic advantage EVERYWHERE and yet still have no specific claim to any institutions of our own while non whites have entire countries they call their exclusive property?

It is time for "anti racist" groups to be destroyed, is is actually way past time. It is time to combat ASIAN privilege and yes BLACK privilege etc, the ONLY racial privileges that exist in the western world are for non white groups, and of course the only privileges in the non western world are for NON WHITES as well.

Posted by anti anti racist on September 15, 2011 at 6:46 PM · Report this
347
ok, my previous comment was kinda dumb. This was actually informative but EXTREMELY difficult to read to completion. A lot of weird premises, or something going on hear. Only one commenter mentioned Tim Wise. I suggest the author and everyone that has ever discussed racism visit http://www.timwise.org/ . Check out the reading list as well.

We can work out the issues of racism and white privilege but need the tools to create an effective context.
Posted by onefluff on September 14, 2011 at 6:10 PM · Report this
346
I have not yet finished reading this post. I had to stop after: "So I throw it out there: Raise your hand if you're a racist...I raise my own hand."

That sounds more like prejudice and stereotyping. If you were racist against African-Americans, you would not believe that two works, both by African-American artists, " [were] art is valuable and has to be taught."

I studied Sociology in college with an interest in race relations and inequality, and understand why 'racist' or 'racism' could easily be inappropriately defined by an art professor. An art professor could teach me a lot about terms used in art.

Ok-that was cathartic. Now back to reading.
Posted by onefluff on September 14, 2011 at 5:36 PM · Report this
345
Thank you for writing this article--this type of commentary and astute observation is desperately needed! Good work! The best thing to do is to keep talking about race and to get everyone, regardless of race, to start talking about it too.
Posted by nackcamp on September 14, 2011 at 11:36 AM · Report this
344
Also to Lyllyth and Mink: THANK YOU
Posted by NEPortlandian on September 14, 2011 at 11:03 AM · Report this
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@313: "Nice trying to justify black people being racist." I was not and never will try to justify black people being hateful (or "racist" as you put it). Prejudice, bigotry, hate, and your definition of racism are disgusting and deplorable no matter who exercises it. My point was that black people do not have the power to be truly racist in that they cannot use their prejudices to define and confine people within our society.

@317: Have you ever heard of poverty or the working poor? Not everyone can afford to "assume the responsibility of home ownership." Regardless of race that statement comes from a place of privilege

@319: I do read the dictionary and I know what the definition of racism is. I have also learned how to deconstruct words, because often a lot more is lying beneath the surface of a simple dictionary definition. Who invented the idea of race? Who has ever truly been able to act upon those assumptions? Racism's presence may not be as overt now (especially if you happen to be white) but media, culture, and politics still assert that being white is the same as being "normal" or "superior," with everything else being a deviation from that normality. It isn't men running around in pointed hats, but it's most definitely racism in one of its most destructive and prevalent forms today. No other minorities have that same amount of power to accompany any prejudices (which are necessary elements of racism) they have. This isn't "redefinition," it's getting to what the word actually signifies instead of repeating what's been memorized.
Posted by NEPortlandian on September 14, 2011 at 10:59 AM · Report this
342
Excellent post. I have done similar things in my classes in cultural anthropology.

Will have me students read this, this semester.
Posted by Deoliver47 on September 14, 2011 at 2:14 AM · Report this
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#339

...we are all human and bleed the same. Why is that so threatening to those who have the privileges and the power? Because it reminds them they might LOSE their power.

Exactly. Very well put.

A societal shift does not happen in one generation alone. The shift cannot happen in silence, denial, or a refusal to call things what they are.

Also well put. :)
Posted by Louisep on September 13, 2011 at 12:51 PM · Report this
lyllyth 340
^"no dignity"
Damn me for my errors, it's okay.
Posted by lyllyth on September 13, 2011 at 11:42 AM · Report this
lyllyth 339
Okay, so I'm posting this comment admitting that I have not read any of the preceding 338 comments, but I have to say:

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS ARTICLE!!!

Seattle, and WA in general, is THE WHITEST PLACE I HAVE EVER LIVED AND IT FREAKS ME OUT DAILY!

I moved up from SoCal, since it was where my parents were from, not me, it was not my home. I think of the land here as Home. Forever.

But there is something NOT RIGHT about NE King County, starting with NE Seattle. It's surreal.

Maybe because I am of Italian descent, and occasionally get mistaken for Hispanic, or maybe just because I AM Mediterranean, I'm not white enough for the white folks here.

I know that I live in South King County because that's where all the good ethnic markets are. That's where people will at least talk to each other on the street.

I have tried to broach the subject with some of my friends on my theory that all white people are still at least a little bit racist. It has certainly become more subtle and possibly subconscious and definitely NOT P-C; but it's there, it still affects everyone. I am openly scoffed at when I say that I know that I am at least a little bit racist, even as I try really hard not to be. "But, who understands those rap guys, anyway?" I used to blame it on being a different subculture, but it isn't. It's a non-acceptance of a cultural value I have partially consciously, partially unconsciously assigned to a certain set of skin colors other than my own.

I have to say, even with racism being a problem, I still think classism is a bigger problem in the world right now. I used to eke out an upper-lower class existence, beating my head against walls to break into the middle class...but I never made it. I fell down two years ago.

I am every statistic a "good white girl" shouldn't be: teen parent, welfare-to-work-mom, temp worker, single mama with deadbeat daddies who don't pay child support (they were 10 years apart, I apparently STILL didn't learn enough about men in that time), fired unfairly from a job when my new boss started committing wage theft and I called her on that and her lack of providing training for our team, slapped back into an unemployment/DSHS bottomless pit of misery, and eventually HOMELESS and sleeping in my car with my kids and dog. We're in a shelter now, but it took 5 months in an RV (once the UE got processed, of course too late to pay back rent by about 2 months) to get high enough on the waitlist to get into a shelter.

The hardest part of all those statistics is maintaining your dignity in the face of everyone who says, "Oh well, you MADE THOSE CHOICES, you're the fuck-up, you loser, you drag on society!"

And I can only imagine _how it would be_ if I were not white and somewhat literate, and more curious and persistent than the average bear.
It's really been a VERY dehumanizing and eye-opening experience. Yet if I put on my work clothes and talk to you over coffee, you would not know that I live in abject poverty and am still shell-shocked a year later.

Humans must still have their dignity. I think this article touches a nerve for that very reason. When you strip away all of the socio-economic facade, we are all human and bleed the same. Why is that so threatening to those who have the privileges and the power? Because it reminds them they might LOSE their power. If you feel powerless, you are that much closer to having know dignity.

I feel like my train of thought has wandered, I am not clear, but in the end I agree:

We have to STOP PRETENDING that the 1960s and 1970s made everything okay and equal and groovy for everyone. Just because our parents taught us verbally that Everyone Is Equal Now, and then taught us in word and action otherwise. A societal shift does not happen in one generation alone. The shift cannot happen in silence, denial, or a refusal to call things what they are.

I am so grateful that others are saying, enough bullshit, WE NEED TO TALK. "Keepin' it real" is a cute little catchphrase, isn't it? A casual greeting or farewell, right?

Shouldn't it be a way of life?
More...
Posted by lyllyth on September 13, 2011 at 11:38 AM · Report this
338
What utter nonsense. Particularly your idiotic comment about white drivers honking their horns at pedestrians walking down the center of the roadway and refusing to move out of the way of traffic: "Honking was an attempt to reassert privilege"

Uh, sorry, but that is nonsense. The drivers in question honked because the idiot pedestrians were blocking the road!!! I guarantee that if the pedestrians in question were white, the drivers would have done the exact same thing.

But you raise a good point: WHAT IS MORE DAMAGING TO SOCIETY? Actual racism, or idiots like this author who makes a genuinely serious problem into a joke of political correctness? I vote for the latter.
Posted by cwxj415 on September 13, 2011 at 10:42 AM · Report this
337
Actually, I don't believe there is anything 'missing' from this article.
I applaud the author for writing it.

"What comes next", is ANOTHER article, which can begin to unearth answers and acts to answer YOUR question. (MikeJake)

We'd never get to that next article without exploring this one. So, in that respect, this article has achieved its purpose.

Posted by Apeerer on September 13, 2011 at 10:39 AM · Report this
336
What is the point in defining (redefining, actually) 'racist' to mean a lesser flaw of acting on bias/prejudice, which every human being does? If I refer to someone as 'tall', I mean they are in the top 10-20% of height, not that they are tall because they are not the absolute shortest person on the planet. Defining tall in a way that applies equally to everyone is pointless-- why even have a word like that? If the word racist is going to retain a useful meaning, surely it must only apply to those who are more extreme in their bias/prejudice.

As for the guys walking down the middle of the street... it's wrong to think a minority group can do no right, but also that they can do no wrong. Why make excuses for bad behavior? Jackasses and morons come in all colors. The white driver who honks the horn is not trying to 'reassert privilege', just trying to get to work on time.
Posted by bkbroyla on September 13, 2011 at 7:52 AM · Report this
335
This article highlights what is wrong with so called "progressives" and why they're largely a non-factor politically. Increasingly, I'm beginning to believe that they advocate certain viewpoints not out of a desire to effect change, but because they feel that it improves their own karma in some way. "Hey, don't be mad at me, various oppressed groups, I'm one of the good guys."

But let's assume that white people adopt the perspective outlined in this article and become super introspective about their "white privilege" and fully and openly admit that it has made things easier for them. Okay...then what? Black people suddenly achieve equality? Cops stop randomly frisking black teens? It's a very Underpants Gnome way of looking at things. It's also a very feminized way of dealing with real issues of inequality. "If we just validate the grievances of black people, then..." What? What happens next? That's the part that is missing from this article: how does this actually translate into equality? And by equality, I mean genuine, tangible equality of economic opportunity and justice, not the faux-equality of being included in some big kumabya-circle of validation and empathy.
Posted by MikeJake on September 12, 2011 at 10:46 PM · Report this
334
Is that why white people are called "honkies?"
Posted by Angry Sam on September 12, 2011 at 10:38 PM · Report this
333
Sorry for the double post.
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 12, 2011 at 10:06 PM · Report this
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@325: Bravo, Patricia!! Spot on!!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 12, 2011 at 10:05 PM · Report this
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@325: Bravo, Patricia!! You nailed it!!!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 12, 2011 at 10:03 PM · Report this
330
I have to disagree with this:

'says Riz Rollins, the writer, DJ, and KEXP personality. "For white people, the only word that begins to approximate the emotional violence a person of color experiences being called a nigger from a white person is 'racist.'

A typical male-dominance perspective: for women "c**t" will do it every time. White men have no idea the emotional violence this word elicits when a woman has this shouted at her. Or maybe they do, which is why they like to use it.
Posted by lld on September 12, 2011 at 4:38 PM · Report this
329
This is an article written by a white person for a white audience. People of color have been facing these issues most of their lives but I believe this is an insightful and informative article for white folks in Seattle who might think they are "immune" to or "above" race or racism. In this country, white people have certain privileges and for some examples of those privileges, you should look at Peggy Macintosh's article on White Privilege: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcint…
Posted by Mink on September 12, 2011 at 10:35 AM · Report this
328
This article is written by a white person for white people and I think it's an insightful and invaluable article for white folks in Seattle who think that they are somehow "immune" or "above" race or racism. I think we need more conversations like this across communities, but especially among people who benefit from white privilege. Here are some examples of white privilege listed by Peggy Macintosh: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcint…
Posted by Mink on September 12, 2011 at 10:32 AM · Report this
327
Patricia raises an interesting point.

I assume its because the author started with the premise that the ultimate evil person is a white male. Regardless of the actual individual involved.

Sortof the reverse of Martin Luther King's 'judge a person by the content of their character, not the color of their skin(or what's in their pants).'

Posted by Hillman on September 12, 2011 at 6:15 AM · Report this
326
Patricia raises an interesting point.

I assume its because the author started with the premise that the ultimate evil person is a white male. Regardless of the actual individual involved.

Posted by Hillman on September 12, 2011 at 6:12 AM · Report this
325
Great post, but how are White women less White than White men?
Posted by Patricia Kayden on September 12, 2011 at 4:46 AM · Report this
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"But pretending they don't exist because I have the luxury of "not looking" well, that's just being a blind ignorant fool! "

Please show me where I said racism doesn't exist.
Posted by Hillman on September 12, 2011 at 4:36 AM · Report this
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Madcap:

You write with style and grace. Which is a rare and unexpected surprise when reading blog comments.
Posted by Hillman on September 12, 2011 at 4:30 AM · Report this
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Deeply embarassesd? My actions today is what I am, not the actions of my forefathers. The only racism I see today is the racism directed at me. Dr. Martin Luther King would be embarrassed by some and proud of others.

I do not apologize for being white. White is just a color, not a person.

You know, the more I think I about this, and I re-read the article... the more I must raise my hand and admit that while I am not a racist, I am a culturist. I seek those that have values and beliefs that I can tolerate. And that is saying a lot as I can tolerate much! LOL. Like minded people have always congregated. There is nothing wrong with that. It is called harmony. I would proudly have had Martin Luther King, and many of my black friends as my neighbors. Because our ideas are similar.

For example from the article: "At my first CARW meeting, I shared a story from when I lived in the Central District. Driving the narrow streets, I'd notice that young black men would sometimes walk in the middle of the street and refuse to move for cars. They'd downright lope, slow like the South, where African American families coming to work at Boeing in the 1950s hailed from when they moved to this neighborhood—the only area of the city where they were allowed to live until the middle 1960s. To me, this loping was a form of historical communication, intentional or not: This is our street."

But in your anaylsis he says we are trying to reassert priviledge..... really? Get a clue, it is rude behavior, but something I see in often within that culture of attitude. You say: "Rather than thoughtfully discussing race," he writes, "Americans love to reduce racial politics to feelings and etiquette. It's the personal and dramatic aspects of race that obsess us, not the deeply rooted and currently active political inequalities. That's our predicament: Racial debate, in public and private, is trapped in the sinkhole of therapeutics." Damn skippy, I call it about feelings and etiquette. We are supposed to be color blind and basing our perception and reactions on others reactions. If you can’t respect me enough to obey the law, by not jaywalking, I can honk my horn. The only reason from my perspective is not about political inequalities, but about plain disrespect. Martin Luther King was listened to, because he was respected. If you notice, not many whites got behind Malcom X.

But I did like this part of it: "Based on statistics that show that racial minorities in Seattle are still less likely than whites to hold diplomas and college degrees, the RSJI worked to remove unnecessary degree requirements from city jobs, which earned the RSJI a mocking on the local Fox News (a sign you're doing a good job). " Unnecessary being the operative word. At first read, I thought, oh great they dumbed down the requirements just to promote someone of a specific race, then I re-read and saw the word unnecessary. This helps individuals of socio-economic status, not race. Race is not the issue, people without diplomas and college degrees are. But they choose to try and "show" they are doing something for the blacks... grrr, it is like the politicians that come in every 2, 4 or 8 years and change regulations on something that is working, just to prove they are "doing something". I call it "resume building". Here it is a good thing, but someone decided to call it in the name of recognizing racism, that is not good.

But I do not close my mind, I listen when someone says something is racist. But I can’t be responsible for how someone else’s perception is other than to state my side. So I raise my hand to being a culturist. But I do not apologize for it. Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are. Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
More...
Posted by Angelina on September 11, 2011 at 9:48 PM · Report this
319
Also, I don't know where you guys come up with your definitions, but if you looked in a dictionary, you would see that "racism" means a belief that people possess inherent qualities and attributes incumbent to their race. It has nothing to do with power dynamics or state action (although it may permeate these). Prejudice and bigotry are broader words that don't necessarily have anything to do with race.

Redefinition of established word meanings is of cults and ideologies. I hope that's not what you want studies of racial dynamics to become (although in many quarters, it seems to already be there).
Posted by madcap on September 11, 2011 at 5:24 PM · Report this
318
Is it possible to introduce a white person to your story without proving their antiracism street cred by documenting how many black guys they've slept with, how many African-American artists' work they have on their walls, how their white parents just don't "get it"? It is rather tedious hearing someone eschew how having "black friends" doesn't mean anything but then justifying themselves by letting us know they have black boyfriends.

I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood in NY, went to predominantly black elementary and high schools, and yet the ratio of black graduation at my high school paled in comparison to the ratio of black attendance. I don't believe this is due to inherent differences in race, but in systemic problems in culture and community. I didn't need to be bused into my high school- it was the closest to my house anyway- but my presence there did not uplift any persons of color. If other students were spending time focused on racial awareness, their time would have been better spent trying to alleviate societal injustices by cracking open a book or two and studying.

Rather than worrying as much about reallocating school children in the hope of finding that magic ratio that cures racial injustice, I'd much rather see a discussion on reallocating resources so that traditionally affluent districts share more in the interest of future generations. Rather than rehashing old racial grievances done to or by our ancestors, can we talk about actually alleviating the problems that allow the resultant imbalances to fester in our society?

Removing unnecessary academic qualifications to jobs is fine, but why not also help people achieve those qualifications? I'm not interested in having the government become a surrogate family that provides for children of color all the things that white (and asian! and Jewish! and many black and latino!) parents can offer their children privately; but I am interested in collectively finding ways to inculcate those structural advantages to end the cycles of disproportionate poverty and crime. If you want to call that assimilation, then so be it. While you dream about rebuilding the foundations of our society, another generation of predominantly non-white children grow up with a lack of skills and resources to escape their impoverished communities here in the real world. Poor blacks can slow the honking cars passing through "their" streets, but those cars will eventually still pass them and reach their destinations, while another generation of socio-economic wraiths walks the streets in impotent rage.

Volunteering to fill servile positions in predominantly black groups is not a conversation on race and doesn't provide any real awakening; any more than spending a night on the street for charity makes one understand homelessness, or fulfilling rape fantasies garners understanding for centuries of the subjugation of Africans. Low-skilled black workers in the service industry are there because they're hired to be there and need the money (just like low-skilled white workers in the service industry); that's fundamentally different from someone who is volunteering to feed their white guilt. A volunteer knows they can go back to their real life when the event is over (just as a faux homeless student can return to his or her dorm), but a real worker doesn't have that luxury. So forgive me if I'm unimpressed by CARW's antics. Instead, why don't they just participate in the groups as peers?

I acknowledge the amount of luck in my station in life. I am more than willing to contribute toward expanding those advantages and opportunities to the less fortunate. Artificially subjugating myself does not make other people better off, it just makes them feel better about their condition. This is the logic of the worst of our reality television. Not feeling complacent enough about your lot in life? Look at those douches on Jersey Shore!

I'm interested in rectifying imbalances in opportunity, whatever their historical origin (not that historical origins are irrelevant in doing so); but I have no interest in flagellating myself for the sins of my ancestral European cousins or my unrelated contemporaries.

In conclusion, I don't have a problem talking about racism or white privilege (two things which, while related, are not the same and ought not be conflated). But my refusal to accept most of your premises, definitions, and conclusions does not constitute a lack of willingness to communicate.
More...
Posted by madcap on September 11, 2011 at 4:39 PM · Report this
317
"It's things like gentrification, where a black owned business that has been serving its community for decades is pushed out to accommodate the influx of yuppies who would rather be within walking distance of Trader Joe's, or forcing lower income people in that black neighborhood to move because they can no longer afford the rising property values that come along with your neighborhood becoming the it place for white hipsters in their mid-to-late twenties looking to buy their first home."

First, a lot of those incoming yuppies are black.

How do you figure that's racism?

Second, being 'forced out'? The only real way that happens is if your rent rises (most towns have property tax deferrment programs that ensure the poor won't lose their homes because of rising real estate taxes). And if you lived in a neighborhood for more than ten years 'back in the day' and you never bought your apt when you had the chance (as most nearly everyone in my town of DC did) then honestly it's hard to have that much empathy for you.

With the ease and convenience of being a renter comes the possibility that your neighborhood will change and you can no longer afford it.

I will admit that given today's stunning real estate prices my pat answer is no longer really valid.

But it certainly was in many cities for the last wave of gentrification.

Don't want to be displaced? Assume the responsibility of home ownership.
Posted by Hillman on September 11, 2011 at 4:15 PM · Report this
316
"I have been educating those around me, mainly whites, about their privilege for years now and dealing with discussing discrimination at my place of work with my employers and co workers."

You must be fun at parties.

"If you start to pay attention, racism is everywhere you look."

If you start by looking for it, then you can imagine it everywhere.

But also if you look hard enough you will see a lot of people of all races that are decent, hard-working people. And they don't discriminate. And they aren't racist.

But if you are determined to see only racism that's what you will see.
Posted by Hillman on September 11, 2011 at 3:39 PM · Report this
315
"Racism = Prejudice + Power, and just because we have a black president doesn't mean that African-Americans are now holding the reins. "

Apparently you've never spent much time in DC.

Blacks 'hold the reins' here. Black mayor. Black city government. Black school system.

Most of the local institutions are black run.

And I see a lot of black racism.

There's a reason white business owners here hire black 'facilitators' to get them building permits or otherwise make visits to various city government offices.

I also see a lot of very decent blacks that don't discriminate.

But the suggestion that you have to have power to be racist is absurd. A racist without power is still a racist, albeit theoretically a castrated one.

But I suspect you don't include all forms of power.

The power to influence others through hate is likely just a big a power as the immediate power to, say, deny someone a job.

And I routinely see blacks in DC passing on their hate to a new generation.

Just like I saw whites in rural Tennessee doing the same thing.

Posted by Hillman on September 11, 2011 at 3:34 PM · Report this
314
You want to opt out of white guilt?

Move to DC.

Or Detroit.

You will soon discover that white privilege is anything but in these majority-black cities.

Racism isn't intrinsically a white thing.

I've seen racist whites and racist blacks. Of the two, I'd say the more deeply seeded hatred is from the racist blacks.

Of course I may feel that way because it was aimed more directly at me.

As for white privilege generally, I'm the offspring of very poor white parents. We literally scrounged for our next meal.

A middle class black family in the same community, or most certainly in a black-centric power structure like DC or Detroit, most certainly had more 'privilege' than I.
Posted by Hillman on September 11, 2011 at 3:23 PM · Report this
KittenKoder 313
@311 .... nice trying to justify black people being racist.
Posted by KittenKoder http://digitalnoisegraffiti.com/ on September 11, 2011 at 2:06 PM · Report this
312
"I would drive slowly behind them, as in a funeral dirge. We were getting nowhere. But I noticed that often, white drivers would honk at the men to move aside. It seemed to me the reason they honked was that they were irritated at having an experience that people of color know well: that you're not just entitled to live anywhere you please, that there might be consequences. Honking was an attempt to reassert privilege."

Oh give me a break. Honking is not an attempt to reassert privilege, it's an attempt to get people out of the middle of a public road. Really, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Posted by QuixoticWindmill on September 11, 2011 at 1:15 PM · Report this
311
"But black people are racist too!"

Newsflash: Racism ≠ Prejudice

The difference between racism and prejudice/bigotry is power. Are there black (or Asian, Latino, Native America, or any other "POC") people who are hateful, prejudiced, violent, etc. towards white people? Yes. Does that make them racist? No, and here's why:

Racism = Prejudice + Power, and just because we have a black president doesn't mean that African-Americans are now holding the reins. While "minority" people may perform heinous acts of violence or bigotry against whites (just like whites did for hundreds of years before they even had the chance to think of doing anything against "massa"), that doesn't mean their prejudice has as pervasive of a systemic effect on society. Power with regard to racism is bigger than just being able to deny someone a job. It's things like gentrification, where a black owned business that has been serving its community for decades is pushed out to accommodate the influx of yuppies who would rather be within walking distance of Trader Joe's, or forcing lower income people in that black neighborhood to move because they can no longer afford the rising property values that come along with your neighborhood becoming the it place for white hipsters in their mid-to-late twenties looking to buy their first home.

Everyone is prejudice to some degree (class, education, sexuality, etc. in addition to race), but only whites (as a race not always a specific person)* can be racist. Don't believe me? Then you may have forgotten about the fact that IT'S THE REASON EVERY SINGLE BLACK PERSON IS IN THE U.S. RIGHT NOW**.

*I realize there will be the "race is a social construct" people who will detest the term white. It's all about culture isn't it? Well as someone who believes race is a social construct and people should be able to define themselves, I'll tell you this: race is about how other people treat you. As an African American I am treated like a "black woman" whose actions are assumed to be common among "black people" and all the baggage that goes along with that. I may see myself as just a "woman" whose actions are only a small aspect of the human experience, but the rest of the world doesn't. Race is a social construct intended to privilege white people and we live within the society that created it.

**I also realize there will be the smart ass who says "what about African immigrants?" Really? I'm obviously not talking about them (their ancestors felt the sting and bullet of white racism and colonialism too anyway).
More...
Posted by NEPortlandian on September 10, 2011 at 6:04 PM · Report this
310
"I have been educating those around me, mainly whites, about their privilege for years now and dealing with discussing discrimination at my place of work with my employers and co workers."

My symapathies to your employers and co workers.
I can't count how many times I've had black co-workers who thought it the whole workplace didn't center around them they were being discrimnated against. They were usually entry level employees and demanded not only their co workers be subordinate to them, but upper management. Get over yourself, what you are facing is not discrimnation, but the reality that it's not all about you. Whites have to live with this reality too.
Posted by Andrew S. on September 10, 2011 at 1:04 PM · Report this
309
I read this whole article and wish i had time to read every comment. I read many of them and noticed how much weight people are placing on "being racist". I know i am super late but f it.

I have been educating those around me, mainly whites, about their privilege for years now and dealing with discussing discrimination at my place of work with my employers and co workers. Empirically and through my years of studying and meeting with the college community; we have learned the best way to carry out this shift in awareness is to address the facts(which is also mentioned in the article by some activist). Educate people about the systemic hierarchies as opposed to telling them that their racist. Thanks for writing and publishing this. word.

cloudy october
publisher-producer-songwriter
black male
Posted by Cloudy October on September 10, 2011 at 10:51 AM · Report this
308
@307: I agree that Jen's a great writer. I'm just saying that JAWIWA and others have some good points, too.
Peace.
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 9, 2011 at 10:05 PM · Report this
307
For all of those people that said Jan is a bad writer you are wrong simply because you posted something. Writers are supposed to make you think and formulate you own opinions. And that is exactly what she has done. She started a conversation between complete strangers whether you agree with her thoughts or not is up to you. I think that Jan did a great job and those who are knocking her writing need to think about what she wrote this for. She is trying to make you think, not give you an answer for an unsolvable problem.
Posted by KT of cornish on September 9, 2011 at 4:43 PM · Report this
306
As a non-White person who has done diversity trainings and multicultural workshops over the years it is interesting to see the paradigm established. People of color are helping white folks deal with the issue their culture created; racism. White people need to address the issue as it is so entrenched in their culture and operates on it's own (systemic/institutional racism) without anyone doing anyhting overtly mad-dog racist. So CARW is to commended for at least trying to ask the right question.
And Jen, could you do me a small favor? Could you do an expose of the whiteness of the art world here in Seattle and while you're at it do a breakdown by race of who receives your Genius Awards and who makes those decisions?
I know that every now and then you recognize a rapper for hipster credential validation, but it seems seriously lacking in diversity, in a city known for it's cultural richness. Or used to be anyway.
Posted by 2000yearsandnonewgod! on September 9, 2011 at 10:57 AM · Report this
305
As a Blind mixed raced Homosexual male I find the whole subject very confusing. I swear I can't tell a white punk from a black gangster. You all look the same to me. I don't like people who mutter or mumble and I hate people who smell bad I mean how hard is it to wash relay even shelters have showers. I know i've lived in some. Do people treat me different because of my color or my blindness? How the F*** would I know! to me an A**H*** is just an A**H*** I am not going to worry why she is one. I would like to thank my husband Jose for typing what I Dicktated
Posted by FritzNichTitts on September 9, 2011 at 10:10 AM · Report this
303
@300: Amen!
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 8, 2011 at 6:07 PM · Report this
302
Thanks for this article. It is the by far the best explanation of racism (white privilege) that I have read. The reaction of white to anti-racism that you describe is being mirrored in the comments. The reaction is 'what did I do to enable white privilege?' when really the question should be 'what did you do acknowledge and fight white privilege'?

Most whites are outraged at being confronted with their racism but at the same time benefit from white privilege while infuriatingly also denying it exists. Part of the problem is that racism has been redefined to be open, blatant discrimination of the southern Jim Crow flavor, rather than the insidious two-faced kind of the rest of the country.

If you start to pay attention, racism is everywhere you look. These insights are so fundamental to blacks, but no one listens to them for even a second. I wonder (facetiously) why that is?
Posted by mourninginamerica on September 8, 2011 at 3:09 PM · Report this
301
Thanks for this article. It is the by far the best explanation of racism (white privilege) that I have read. The reaction of white to antiracism that you describe is being mirrored in the comments.

Most whites are outraged at being confronted with their racism but at the same time benefit from white privilege while also denying it exists. Part of the problem is that racism has been redefined to be open, blatant descrimination of the southern Jim Crow flavor, rather than the insidious two-faced kind of the rest of the country.

If you start to pay attention, racism is everywhere you look. These insights are fundamental to blacks, but no one listens to them for even a second. Denial, denial ...
Posted by mourninginamerica on September 8, 2011 at 3:02 PM · Report this
300
Seriously though, racism and racist are words that are over- and imprecisely used far too much, as in this article. The word she should have used is "Prejudiced." Racism implies a direct power imbalance and the ability or intent to cause pain, suffering, embarrassment, violence, economic difficulty, social ostracism, or the like through conscious actions.

On a person-to-person, day-to-day level, having a negative internal reaction to someone and/or drawing negative conclusions about a person or group based on no evidence beyond the basis of their race (or gender, disability, perceived or known sexual orientation, attractiveness is prejudice.

For the record, progressing from that internal prejudiced feeling to provocative confrontation with or a negative action toward someone "different" is called bigotry.

To wit:

The lady that clutches her purse to her breast when a black man in a business suit, with the Wall Street Journal tucked under his arm sits down next to her on the subway is prejudiced.

The man who screams the "N" word or the "F" word out the window of his car when passing by a black person or gay person, respectively, is a bigot.

The state that tries to re-impose poll-testing in a conscious effort to undermine the ability of poor black citizens to vote is racist, as is each legislator who supports such a notion.

Here endeth today's lesson in the nomenclature of negative racial feelings.
Posted by JAWIWA on September 8, 2011 at 1:30 PM · Report this
299
Thank you for this article! It articulated some things that have been rolling around in my brain for awhile. As mixed (white/Chinese) Asian American who grew up in the Seattle area, I was encouraged to be "white" not only by my Chinese mother, but by the broader society I was living in.

It wasn't until I left Seattle for Chicago that I was really able to understand race and racism in a constructive and, for me, transformative way. It was in seminary that I learned all of this! As I turn my eye back to Seattle, I'm astonished at its strange culture – one that prides itself on being socially progressive and yet uncritical, almost willfully ignorant about race, one of the primary social issues in this country.
Posted by thepemily on September 8, 2011 at 1:14 PM · Report this
298
@Tricky (and a lot of other commentrs), you should probably not go see "Avenue, Q".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RovF1zsDo…
Posted by JAWIWA on September 8, 2011 at 12:59 PM · Report this
297
What #296 said.
Posted by Louisep on September 8, 2011 at 9:11 AM · Report this
294
I like the term white privilege. Reading comments I think of money privilege, political privilege, location(or geographical)privilege, scholastic privilege,religious privilege, etc.
This is a compensating effort to give us status when we really feel like nothing, superiority when we really feel inferior, comfort when we really feel discomfort etc.
So, I think that privilege exists across all elements of society since we are all human and have the same basic traits.
Looks to me that it would be helpful to be honest, open, and real on an emotional deep level. However this can be painful, vulnerable, and embarassing and we need to support each other for this process to happen.
Having this awareness makes it possible to reevaluate our image of ouselves so we may be more natural and confident about who we really are and respect ouselves as well as others. Hopefully this can lead to being more fully human and have less real need to be artificially privileged.
This takes a lot of risky work and most of us are don't know how, are impatient and want a quick fix or band-aid. However, this is the only real worth while approach that is deeply satisfying.

Posted by Arbeez on September 8, 2011 at 12:53 AM · Report this
293
@Heidirh

I see. Yes, you're right, the black person would be aware of what the white person was assuming.
Posted by Louisep on September 7, 2011 at 10:59 PM · Report this
292
@Louisep

Oops -- your corrected version is what I intended to say. But I was also trying to say that the black party somehow would be aware of this unspoken presupposition on the part of the white party.
Posted by heidirh on September 7, 2011 at 9:53 PM · Report this
291
@275: Actually, I'm more of a flutist.
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 7, 2011 at 8:15 PM · Report this
Fenrox 290
This article clued me into the next racism trend, owning your "whiteness" and somehow using that to punish black people.

Also those crazy orgs mentioned in the article are interesting!

All in all a wonderful piece.
Posted by Fenrox on September 7, 2011 at 3:49 PM · Report this
289
@heidirh

The only way (apparent to me) that the compliment could be understood as a racist snub is if both parties involved presuppose that "black" individuals, are not normally eloquent, and that the "white" (& "naturally silver-tongued") person is somehow grandly bestowing a title of "eloquent" upon the "black" person, who, in turn ought to be grateful for the "white validation"... or something.

Very close. Except that instead of both parties presupposing that black individuals are not normally eloquent, it's generally just the white individual presupposing it.

Otherwise, right on.
Posted by Louisep on September 7, 2011 at 3:16 PM · Report this
288
#274

Yes, I agree.

#276

I'll keep that in mind. :)
Posted by Louisep on September 7, 2011 at 3:13 PM · Report this
286
ps - Just now realizing I'm the "eloquent" speaking man of color you spoke with after the Brownie Points panel. It was good to meet you, Jen :-)

- post #284
Posted by Color and Composition on September 7, 2011 at 3:02 PM · Report this
285
Trolling is not necessarily a bad thing and can be good

sure there are some trolls who are bad but don't paint the whole chassis with the same spray gun, ok
Posted by pulse of the machine on September 7, 2011 at 2:38 PM · Report this
284
Jen, thank you for writing this article! There is and will be a lot of push back from many of our White brothers and sisters as they grapple with the idea of having prejudice AND institutional privilege. You have chosen to stand in the gap, thus you have made yourself a target for people's anxiety, fear, anger, etc. As you continue on this journey I call "racial reconciliation and culutural competency", I would encourage you to seek support from others who are on that journey as well. And please don't stop addressing this highly relevant, urgent, problematic, yet neglected/suppressed epidemic. Peace.
Posted by Color and Composition on September 7, 2011 at 2:35 PM · Report this
283
Trolling is not necessarily a bad thing and can be good

sure there are some trolls who are bad but don't paint the whole chassis with the same spray gun, ok
Posted by pulse of the machine on September 7, 2011 at 2:34 PM · Report this
tharp42 282
You are the biggest shower of pusses I've ever had the misfortune to weep upon. Sure, we white folks are all racist ass bags, but the fact that you shriveled feebs feel the need to form PC action support groups to make yourselves feel better almost makes racism more admirable than your own silly, Seattle middle class hang-ups.

Fuck Olympia and TESC for ever instilling this very silly impulse among the populace (and I grew up in Oly and then Seattle). I hate capitalism as much as you cats, but I know straight-up LAMENESS when I see it...

end of...
Posted by tharp42 on September 7, 2011 at 11:32 AM · Report this
281
@280: I don't disagree, but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do about that fact once I've been shamed with it. I wasn't born white just to fuck with you. Should I quit and take a worse job so that I"m not "exploiting my white privilege" by getting a good one? Who would that benefit?
Posted by Orv on September 7, 2011 at 11:02 AM · Report this
280
A key belief that folks need to get over in this thread:

Racism is not a series of intentional hateful acts or speech,

Racism is not even the unintentional ways that dominant groups tell people of other groups that they do not belong, that they are not normal, etc. Those are called microaggressions. Microaggressions do reinforce systems of racism, sexism, heteronormative patriarchal privilege, etc. They are dehumanizing and mean, and again, mostly unintentional. That's the "you're so articulate" thing.

Racism is a system of oppression. It is state-sanctioned, and produced both legally and extralegally. It has the effect of producing group-differentiated vulnerabilities to premature death (and, as the writer writes, to benefits for the dominant group). So the question for white readers is, have you benefited from the system of white privilege? Well, yes. Duh.

Posted by radicalprofessor on September 7, 2011 at 10:42 AM · Report this
279
"The Racial Contract" by C. Wright Mills. For anyone interested in seeing a philosophical foundation for concepts like systemic racism and white privilege this book might be a good place to start...in fact I think I'm going to pick it up again right now! You might say that political philosophy is a parlor game. It is. I still think it's worthwhile, but that's a different thread.
Posted by jessup on September 7, 2011 at 10:01 AM · Report this
278
"'I'd love to interview you; you're so eloquent,' I tell him, immediately hearing myself sound like one of those people who said candidate Obama was so well-behaved (well-groomed, polite, pick your nice adjective) for a black man.

"'I can't believe I just called you eloquent,' I say. He gives me a knowing look..."

I can believe you called him eloquent.

You, when seeking a subject to interview on any subject, wouldn't prefer to interview a person who is eloquent over someone who just doesn't care? I do understand the point you're trying to convey, but...

Maybe I'm just socially awkward (I am), & I don't understand the rules, but I actually have commented positively on others' facility with language, regardless of race, and others have commented on mine (I'm "white"). I don't think I would ever do so to a complete stranger, though.

To me it's hard to understand your calling this African American man "eloquent" as anything other than a compliment that I myself would be happy to receive, given that the compliment was made in the context of interviewer seeking interviewee.

The only way (apparent to me) that the compliment could be understood as a racist snub is if both parties involved presuppose that "black" individuals, are not normally eloquent, and that the "white" (& "naturally silver-tongued") person is somehow grandly bestowing a title of "eloquent" upon the "black" person, who, in turn ought to be grateful for the "white validation"... or something.

In reality, I think, few people (regardless of race) are actually eloquent. I know I am not one of them, and that this post itself is pretty awkwardly constructed.

It is difficult, when talking to a stranger, to establish what worldview the other party is speaking from. I guess, ultimately, I do understand how your comment on this man's verbal facility could be slightly irritating to him, and possibly interpreted as racist (given that you were a stranger to him, and also "white").

More...
Posted by heidirh on September 7, 2011 at 9:52 AM · Report this
276
Personally, I'd say I'm more of a classist.

Take what people wear as a trivial example... I would cross the street if I saw someone dressed like a thug, no matter their race (and I've seen people of all races dress like thugs). And I would NOT be nervous with a person who was dressed in a business suit (at least not about my physical safety - the safety of my economy is a different story :).

So I guess the lesson is if you want to get the jump on me in the street, wear a suit.
Posted by pffft on September 6, 2011 at 10:51 PM · Report this
Arsenic7 275
These comments really make me appreciate Jen's piece more.

Look, everyone is racist. We can't help it as human beings. There may be some rare exception but as a general rule, if you are human you are racist.

I may not feel like I've discriminated against someone in any meaningful way but the fact that my first thoughts when I see or meet someone are partially determined by their race means that it may have happened.

This fact, over time, perpetrated by the majority, results in more overt discrimination.
Posted by Arsenic7 on September 6, 2011 at 10:51 PM · Report this
274
#273 - i guess it's kind of a philosophy of ethics question. where does guilt by inaction lie on the moral spectrum?
Posted by pffft on September 6, 2011 at 10:47 PM · Report this
273
#271

Serious question, though -- Is an individual who passively benefits from systemic racism a racist?

I don't think so. Not necessarily, at least. Systemic racism is the racism of a whole group of people, especially those with the power to make and enact policy. A white person who is as non-racist as a person can possibly be, can -- for example -- still benefit from the racist favoritism of others.

Whether passively benefitting from systemic racist is compatible with being a non-racist -- that's a different question.

I guess the moral issue is whether it's right to benefit from favoritism of any kind.

Posted by Louisep on September 6, 2011 at 10:21 PM · Report this
272
Well.. Ms. Graves got a whole bunch of folks on this here website to talk about it. I would guess that is her goal anyways - and not a bad goal at that. I don't necessarily agree with her, (and I sure can see how she might rub some college kids the wrong way,) but it might make some folks think a little, never a bad thing. And I sure as heck thank jebus I am not a young black man - talk about having the deck stacked against you.
Posted by waffles on September 6, 2011 at 9:38 PM · Report this
271
Aah. The old "if you're defensive about being called a racist then you're obviously a racist" trick. :)

Serious question, though -- Is an individual who passively benefits from systemic racism a racist?

Is there a difference between systemic racism and individual racism?

Posted by pffft on September 6, 2011 at 9:20 PM · Report this
270
Unfortunately, racism has the potential to appear even more exacerbated in less-white cities. It's obvious that, despite our demographic composition, we will have to find ways to mitigate systematic racism. I was born in Ballard, have lived in a multitude of places, and I understand how white it is. Hell, it was a bunch of Scandinavians. Now it's a bunch of hipsters. Still white. It's unfortunate that one of our only utensils to stigmatize awareness of diversity and racism issues at a foundational level (the racial tiebreaker) got the axe from the Supreme Court. It should have upheld the 9th's holding that the school district had a compelling interest to maintain racial diversity.
Posted by lindsaybee on September 6, 2011 at 9:18 PM · Report this
269
@257: I couldn't have phrased it any better myself!
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 6, 2011 at 6:47 PM · Report this
268
I mean, someone please point out to me this utopia of post-racism that Seattle needs to aspire to be or feel guilty about not being?
Posted by E.B.yerdmeh on September 6, 2011 at 6:23 PM · Report this
267
As long as there is race, there will be racism; there is no getting around it. And I have just about had enough, even at the tender age of 30, of 'white guilt.' If there is injustice of any sort, I am willing to combat that, but don't tell me that I am complicit in such 'injustice' just because I want to live my life. You say it is all due to the 'system' that these sorts of 'injustices' occur. Well, the fact that things sway to the benefit of white people would follow since they in fact put said system in place. Obviously it is not perfect and needs to be adjusted so that all races benefit, but last I checked, we are the most diverse nation in the world. Please correct me if I am wrong. That inevitably entails more trials than the whole world has ever encountered.
Posted by E.B.yerdmeh on September 6, 2011 at 6:18 PM · Report this
266
@Robert Abrahamsen

They have monthly meetings that are free.

http://carw.org/meetings/
Posted by Louisep on September 6, 2011 at 6:07 PM · Report this
Matthew 'Anc' Johnson 263
Hey 1389AD, noticing your handle put your comment about how 'everyone is a racist' in some much needed context.

You know, the whole the Battle of Kosovo being resurrected by Milosevic in his Gazimestan Speech to stoke the fires of Serb Nationalism and to tell the Serb people to prepare for upcoming Battles.
Posted by Matthew 'Anc' Johnson on September 6, 2011 at 5:12 PM · Report this
jjm84 262
I wanted to read this story, but then she quoted a SLOG comment.
Posted by jjm84 on September 6, 2011 at 4:26 PM · Report this
261
@260: Heh, good point about it being like church. If I wanted to have my inner thoughts judged as thought crimes I could just go back to being Lutheran. It would be cheaper. ;)
Posted by Orv on September 6, 2011 at 3:10 PM · Report this
260
I looked at the CARW website. If accepted to participate, prepare to pay $150. It's more than I'm willing to spend on an experience that this article makes sound like nothing so much as church. From the questions on the application, I doubt I'd be accepted anyway.

So to attend, I'll have to rely on my imagination...

"Hello, my name is Robert, and I've been white for forty one years. I haven't had a racist thought in almost 18 minutes."

(all) "Hi Robert!"

"Thank you. This may seem presumptuous for my first statement of participation, but I think we need to change the focus. Class is the invisible structure that defines everything. Class is the center that goes unnamed and unstudied, and that needs to be explored and exploded. Of course questions of class and race are related. But class remains more fundamental to privilege. It's virtually synonymous with privilege. For a truly fairer society, we need a movement of class traitors.

"I propose to call it the CACB, or: the committee of anti-classist bourgeois.

"How do you know you're classist? Ever have a negative thought based on socioeconomic bias? How do you know you're bourgeoise? What did your parents do for a living?

"Once you realize you're a classist, the question becomes what to do about it. How do you talk about classism with people who don't want to see it? Exposure may be the key that trips awareness. Bourgeoisness, as a structure, limits your ability to listen to proletarians, to see them, to believe them, so exposure on the terms of the proletarians is important. CACB would force awkwardness out into the open. Its simple philosophy will be that bourgeois need to follow proles on matters of class.

“A CACB members would attend committees headed by separate economic- justice committees run by proles. In the name of that holiest of principles, diversity, CACB members would volunteer to do chores and run errands for proles of all races: African American, Latino, Native, white—even non-Filipino Asians!

“It’s important to recognize that class affects everything you do, and that to act otherwise is just naive. The test of how classist you are is not how many people of color you can count as friends. If you’re bourgeoisie, you have to own it. None of this I’m-not-bourgeoise, don’t-I-raise-awareness-of-white-privilege stuff. Bourgeoisie leftists have to see class to the terms they actually benefit from it. Bourgeoisness is a real force that you’ve personally benefited from if you’re bourgeoisie. As bourgeoise you have to own the development of your classist lens. Because whether you’re aware of it of not, you have one.

“It could just as well be called Deeply Embarrassed White Leftists Talk Awkwardly About Privilege.”

I wonder what the reaction would be?

Being bourgeoise neither by birth nor circumstance (oddly, considering the all- encompassing nature of white privilege), I’d be ineligible for the hypothetical CACB. On the off-chance such an organization ever should form, however, I do mean to be supportive. Drop by any time if you want to clean my toilet!

P.S. “Abrahamsen” is a Norwegian name.
More...
Posted by Robert Abrahamsen on September 6, 2011 at 1:56 PM · Report this
HollowMan 259
Race is a far more complex issue than it is often treated as, and this has the counter intuitive effect of making race seem far more complex than it is.

When we are looking at race, we have to unpack a whole host of things that are totally unrelated to the color of the subjects skin - economic differences, cultural differences, subcultural differences... these are hugely important issues dividing people both within races and between races. To simply pack all these differences under the topic of race simply makes the problem of race even more insoluble, while doing almost nothing to address many of the factors behind segregation, inequality and the unconscious biases we all carry. Race is an important factor here, but it is not the subject heading.


Posted by HollowMan on September 6, 2011 at 1:30 PM · Report this
GQbd 258
This is an interesting article and one which I am still trying to wrap my head around. The myriad thoughts going through my head are no doubt compounded by the fact that I am not from Seattle -- never been there, in fact -- so how I view what Seattle considers to be race relations are probably colored by my own ignorance and prejudices(how is it that the "5th whitest city in the US" is only 66% white?). Regardless, is the article's point that the litany of disparities between Seattle's black community and the rest of Seattle would somehow evaporate if only white people would understand their racism? I don't mean any disrespect, but that strikes me as either arrogant or naive.

Posted by GQbd on September 6, 2011 at 11:54 AM · Report this
257
@228: The problem is the wealthy continue to get wealthier, while the rest of us get poorer. They're grabbing a bigger and bigger slices of the pie, leaving less and less for the rest of us. In a way it's immaterial whether they "deserve it"; you don't have to make a moral judgement against rich people to see that if that continues, there are going to be unpleasant consequences for society. It's hard for an economy or a society to work when the vast majority of the wealth is held by a tiny percentage of people. Already we're seeing the economic consequences of the fact that the middle and lower classes simply don't have money to spend, anymore.
Posted by Orv on September 6, 2011 at 11:49 AM · Report this
GQbd 256
@ # 252: Now that's funny!
Posted by GQbd on September 6, 2011 at 11:18 AM · Report this
255
Thank you for writing this article. Yes, it's really uncomfortable for us white people to talk about this. And yes, we need to keep trying and learning. It's something I struggle to do every day and it's hard as hell. But I have people of color in my life that I love, and I want to improve my own skills in talking about racism because I care about them. Combatting racism feels like trying to melt an iceberg with a match, but every bit of effort helps.
Posted by canamian on September 6, 2011 at 9:29 AM · Report this
alpha unicorn 254
"When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses."
- Shirley Chisholm
Posted by alpha unicorn on September 6, 2011 at 8:46 AM · Report this
tharp42 253
Wow, a CARW meeting sounds like the most awful thing in the world. Only in Seattle...

Posted by tharp42 on September 6, 2011 at 7:48 AM · Report this
252
Stranger, you've gone so far to the extreme left that even your readers are calling BS on you. Wise up.
Posted by Pelosi Facelift on September 6, 2011 at 7:33 AM · Report this
251
I enjoyed this article very much. It's good to see race issues get major coverage. We don't live in a "post-racial society", if such a thing could ever exist. It's good to be called out on white privilege (and class privilege, which often goes hand in hand).

I do think that we shouldn't conflate having intermittent racially-based thoughts with being a racist. I agree with the previous commenter who said that if everyone's a racist, the term becomes meaningless. It's more useful to talk about actions and thoughts rather than giving people labels. A mean thought now and then doesn't make you a mean person. Doing something careless once or twice doesn't make you a careless person. For something to be a trait, it has to be repeated, ingrained, habitual, or otherwise generally characteristic of the person. It's better to avoid sticking someone with a label unless they've clearly earned it. Instead, I'd talk about actions or thoughts. We can raise our awareness of negative racial thinking and make a choice to act differently.
Posted by strange observer on September 6, 2011 at 7:27 AM · Report this
249
I don't know what's more of a wake-up call for me: this article, or the following comments!
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 5, 2011 at 10:13 PM · Report this
248
@Andrew S.

Is that always true?
Posted by Louisep on September 5, 2011 at 9:34 PM · Report this
247
@245...

"All people are 'racist' by nature..."

Speak for yourself. Remember to speak for yourself--you have no idea what's going on in people's minds until they tell you. And even THEN, they might be lying. Anyway, I don't buy that "Avenue Q" rap--don't lump me in with all these "people".

It sounds more like you're talking about tribalism. If you're talking about tribalism, okay--science DOES back that up. But I wouldn't necessarily frame that as "I'm here with you because I HATE THEM, not only because you look like me". I think there might be a difference, and that you might be blurring these two ism's a bit carelessly.

Posted by MarsNova on September 5, 2011 at 7:53 PM · Report this
246
Jen, why are the hate crimes blacks perpetrated in the 90's against Asians and Jews called "disputes between communities" but the same hate crimes committed by whites against blacks or Muslims are called "hate crimes". This needs to be looked into and people need to be taken to task for refusing to acknowledge hate crimes committed by people of African decent. PS- Seattle is soooo racist young black men can stomp to death an elderly white man for fun and be out of jail in less then a year.
Posted by Andrew S. on September 5, 2011 at 7:29 PM · Report this
245
Here's the problem. All people are "racist" by nature in that they automatically and instinctively feel more comfortable among those who resemble themselves. I don't care whether anybody likes it or not; it's a fact, and facts are stubborn things.

If you try to guilt trip people over this, then stress builds up, and people have a pent-up demand for a politically-correct target to spew their anger and frustration on. They pick a target that they can PROJECT their racism on. They want to find somebody they can hate for beint "racist", even if their target (or rather, scapegoat) population manifests little or no racist behavior.

During the 1990s, the leftist/pro-Muslim axis picked three groups of people: Serbs, Russians, and white Christians in the South.

I'm a Serb and an Orthodox Christian, and I live in the South. I absolutely despise what you hypocritical and self-righteous monsters did, and are still doing, to my people.

Just sayin'.
Posted by 1389AD on September 5, 2011 at 6:18 PM · Report this
244
I recently found a living testament of my great-great grandparents in Virginia and Alabama that descrube what shall be done with their "niggers" if they are to pass. The language is possessive, cold, but so eerily normalized. I'm sad to say i heard my grandpa repeat such a discourse when i was a child. Nit everyone has such a tangable experience of white privlege and its manifestarions, but it does make you think about legacies of racism and their role in anti-racist activities. Just as the discourse was normal and tolerated then, so our words and actions now may be measured as racist by our children. Why not err on the side of changing a status quo of thought and structure than simply "accept our prejudices and be real"?
I dug this article and find its ultimate call to action necessary in light of the other option: complicity in a harmful system. We might not have slave recirds, but, as Jen points out, we have statistical records of a segregated, unequal, and actively discriminatory society. So, let's get down to it.
Cheers, Jen!
Posted by KelMel on September 5, 2011 at 12:40 PM · Report this
243
A hallmark of white Seattle - navel-gazing. Seattleites are very proud if they associate with black people or minorities. I recently rebuked a friend who tended to use racist blanket-descriptions.
His first defense was that he heard someone of that race use a term. Well, if you're a hanukkah-bush Jew who's always been surrounded by other Jewish people and Jewish culture, you get to make dubious insights.
But if you went to Seattle Prep and never left - then you don't get the privilege of using "Jew" in a discussion about the failed banking system, when you know neither Jews nor bankers.
His next defense - "I know LOTS of ethnic people!" Really? How many? He did some exaggerated hand math and held up the result. "Five!"
If you can actually count the number of non-caucasian people you know - on one hand - you are the product of a racist environment.
Posted by izzy on September 5, 2011 at 12:09 PM · Report this
Woodrow Wilson Smith 242
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
Posted by Woodrow Wilson Smith on September 5, 2011 at 7:33 AM · Report this
241
I didn't stop reading this because it made me uncomfortable. I stopped reading it because it was frickin' boring.
Posted by Bewilderbeast on September 4, 2011 at 11:22 PM · Report this
240
Thanks for this thoughtful article about the reality of the racial climate in Seattle. I have found that a lack of an inner awareness of white privilege runs rampant in white liberal progressive community. It is frustrating to see so many 'aware' individuals who fight for environmental injustice, use natural healing, organic and whole food nutritional practices etc are unexamined in their racism (and for some their classism and the race/class intersection in their lives). Seattle is full of this kind of white liberal. I know we can do better, fellow white people.
Posted by graceaware on September 4, 2011 at 9:57 PM · Report this
239
#143

No wonder I didn't remember what you were talking about.

You buried your explanation about substituting "white" for "black" and "black" for "Jews" just a little too deeply.
Posted by Louisep on September 4, 2011 at 9:54 PM · Report this
238
#227

Hear hear!
Posted by Louisep on September 4, 2011 at 9:22 PM · Report this
237
@236
Emmet Till's murder and the subsequent injustice is called a travesty.
Yankel Rosenbaum's murder and the subsequent
injustice is called a dispute between communities based on legimiate grievences.
Recently a group of black artists in NYC commemerated the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights Pogrom by holding an exhibit that was more sympathetic to the black perpetrators then the Jews who were lynched, assaulted, and mugged.
I don't want to minimalize how upset blacks were over the child who died in the car accident- they committed 2 murders, over 50 assaults, and most importantly, over 250 muggings.
When black folks stop calling the hate crimes they committ "disputes between communties" and use it for a shake down then I will start paying attention to their gripes.
As long as Rosenbaum's lynching is spoken about as a "clash" between blacks and Jews while Emmet Till's is called a barbaric hate crime- I will have no sympathy for those who whine about "white priveledge". Only blacks can get away with openly sympathizing with those who lynch innocent people. RIP Yankel Rosenbaum and Emmet Till. Hopeful America will one day see you both as equal. Until then, our civil rights movement remains in ashes, because there is only one group of people who can act like the KKK and still be openly defended without outrage- people of African decent.
Posted by Andrew S. on September 4, 2011 at 8:14 PM · Report this
236
If you are a white person in America, then you benefit from the racist systems that give you privilege.

So unless you are actively undoing racism, you are a racist.

You might not be a bigot, but you are a racist.

This is a critical shift for all white people to make.

All white people are racists.

In the face of this, you can reclaim your humanity, by actively working for racial justice.
That means working actively with people of color to undo the institutional racism in our community. And doing the hard work to understand and undo internalized racial superiority.

Or you can be complacent.

But your non-action is what defines you...not your professed liberal values, or the number of friends that you have that are people of color.
Posted by mermaid13 on September 4, 2011 at 6:51 PM · Report this
235
In case you are an embarassed white person, just thought I would list some white achievements that people can be proud of, just as there is a long list of black achievements, and other races' achievements that people can be proud of.

1. When everybody else decided to stay home, white people explored and charted the four corners of this world. That took courage, tenacity and intelligence - all things to be proud of.

Other white accomplishments to be proud of: movable type printing presses, 1st to create realistic looking paintings, numerous advances in architecture, calculus, physics, 1st to chart periodic table of elements, numerous medical advances, nymerous agriculture advances, invented the steam engine, internal combustion engine, deduces the laws of electricity, first to create advanced musical harmony, the symphony-orchestra and most of its instruments, first to build a flying machine, automobile, rockets, first man on the moon and on an on.

If some of you are embarassed to be white, speak for yourselves because I'm not. I would just like to encourage people to be proud of theirselves no matter what race they are.
Posted by j.j.rex on September 4, 2011 at 4:42 PM · Report this
234
If someone asked me if I was racist I would ask them if they thought any of the follow were "anti racist" activists: Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, the NAACP. If they said yes to any of these I would then let them know that I talk about black folks the way they talk about Jews. (I included the NAACP because they have given a platform to Louis Farrakhan on numerous occasions). Then I would ask them if they consider me a racist, which no doubt the answer would be yes. Sick of the hypocrsy
Posted by Andrew S. on September 4, 2011 at 2:14 PM · Report this
233
Ms. Graves, I appreciate the article. But let me tell you something. There are actually non-racist white people out there. I don't know about your generation, but some of us had parents in the civil rights movement, and instead of getting latent racism from them as you may have from yours, we got a foundation in tolerance and respect. Are we perfect? Of course not, but do we have any problem at all with Blacks/Latinos/Asians/Indians/whatever in our neighborhood, being our bosses, dating our daughters? No. Do we think they simply want to be white people? No. Do we think racism is a huge problem and every Black person gets an unacceptable amount of it? Yes. We are still shocked at the amount of racism in our society, in police profiling, sentencing inequalities, discrimination in home and farm loans, job applicants, you name it, but just because it hasn't gone away already does not mean every white person is part of the problem.

Some people get mad at being called a racist because they ARE racist, and nobody likes to be thought of as a bad guy, but some people get furious at being called a racist because they've gone through hell not to be and someone like you just, without knowing them, says it's not enough, or they've missed the point somehow.

You can't go around with this Zen koan type of paradox that if you think you're not racist, you're racist, or that everyone is whether they try to be or not. It doesn't open peoples' minds, it makes them angry and defensive, and I know from personal experience it may actually create racism.
Posted by Anchorite on September 4, 2011 at 1:33 PM · Report this
230
Thank you, Mrs Graves; great article.
Posted by joshroby on September 4, 2011 at 9:42 AM · Report this
KittenKoder 228
@Count No'Count .... I love the rich, and I'm a happy content poor person, very poor, below poverty level even. I love rich people because two of the richest in Western Washington paid to have the building I can afford to live in remodeled so many of us poverty level or lower people have a place to live. These giant corporations all started out as mom and pops, just like Starbucks is ... oh yeah, they're a huge corporation now to, okay, Tully's .... erm .... big corporation now. You see, you know rich people are not evil, you just don't like people being wealthier than you, you thrive on finding someone to hate, and you choose the one demonized the most so you can do it guilt free. Want to know what I hate? I hate junkies, yep, a few friends from when I lived in the shelters are junkies, and I hate them for it, but I do know that some of them are okay folks. How do I hate without guilt? Simple, I give them a chance to prove me wrong in my assumptions before I decide to write them off. That's the difference between protective hatred and truly evil hatred. You will not give them a chance, yet the ultra wealthy in this state have done more for the homeless and poverty level people than ANYONE else, a LOT more than you have ever done and will ever do because you are spending all your time hating instead of doing something.
Posted by KittenKoder http://digitalnoisegraffiti.com/ on September 4, 2011 at 3:07 AM · Report this
227
What a compelling reflection on whiteness and racism. I wish that I had time to read all of the comments l, which appear to be equally compelling. I appreciate very much Jen your honesty and your research. Thanks for opening this box and tackling the tip of a very large iceberg. Your point in class was well taken here and if students were offended and confused, I say, "Bravo!" Then they are feeling, thinking, and beginning to learn. Apparently, no one has yet challenged them and I applaud your authenticity and courage. As a Latina and a professional, I have encountered so much ignorance and hubris among many of my fellow healthcare professionals, civilian & military, regarding the care of 'non-white' people. For example, they see all Spanish-speakers as one monolithic group and there is such ignorance regarding the struggles of Latinos native & non-native to this country and how that colors their experience and perceptions. The erroneous and damaging conclusions derived by non-racist healthcare professionals, researchers, and policy makers would fill infinite volumes, not to mention the fallout left in the wake. Keep on doing whatever you're doing! You can count on me to support your struggle for awakening! Your original Tacoma fan, Ana
Posted by Ana2 on September 4, 2011 at 2:55 AM · Report this
226
@187 - That's one of the most cogent things I think I've ever heard anyone say on the topic.
Posted by sweet g on September 3, 2011 at 11:33 PM · Report this
225
@224: Holy SHIT, Batman!!! That is morbid!

Okay, while there is some truth to your long rant about the history of world hatred, take some deep breaths.....breathe deeply......let it all slowly back out...and repeat....for the next 30 years.

Peace.
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 3, 2011 at 11:28 PM · Report this
TikofTok 224
#195: You seem disturbingly ignorant of such crimes.

So becuase I actually care about crime rates and the racial hatred that erupts everyday agianst white populations, I'm supposed to shut up and blame this bull crap priviledge?

Why do they commit such incredible amounts of rape? Why do the Black 5% population of California commit 40% of the rape crime?

How is socio economics an excuse for that? All I hear are the same excuses. It's da white mans fault, look at this liberal diversity author spouting the same rhetoric we have heard for decades. It's rubbish and it has always been rubbish. Noone here dares refute my points because they are the truth. They will keep blaming racism, discrimination and the old excuse... SLAVERY AND COLONIALISM.

Like no other civilization ever conquered or enslaved. Like the africans didn't sell their slaves to the Americans. Spain was subjugated for 700 YEARS as was Eastern Europe. What did Spain do? They took back their land and became conquerers themselves.

Wheres the North African reparations for Spain? Wheres the apologies for what the mongols and muslims did to Europe?

I dont want an apology or excuses. I want Liberty and I am sick and tired of authors like this spouting the same anti white crap over and over. They hate their race, they hate their culture and they hate themselves. They push this agenda to feel good. They have been brainwashed by white liberal guilt for things they never did or ever do.

But of course, they will ignore the crime statistics. Statistics which are mimiced EVERYWHERE even in countries like Britian which has no history of discrimination. We invite these people in, take them fromw are torn areas. Areas that WE for once didn't invade for some ridiculous reason illegally. We give them things they never had, so many possibilities and they squander it. They rape, murder and steal more than the natives and continue to do so. Now they out breed us and within a few decades we will be the minorities in our own countries. And when that happens, we truly will be in danger. We have fallen so far... we have let corrupt politicans both left and right use us, we continue this unsustainable fiat currency and this social welfare which exceeds our own income. We could be in space, mining gas giants, digging deep into asteroids with conceptual dieas we have had for 4 decades but no, we have to be the worlds lifeboat and commit national suicide for some agenda that has never made any sense.

And you wonder why I worry about this.
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Posted by TikofTok on September 3, 2011 at 10:52 PM · Report this
223
#218

Amen to all that. When a Chinese friend of mine moved with her parents and brothers to West Seattle in 1973, they had to get an unlisted phone number because they got so many hostile calls from white people who didn't want a Chinese family in the neighborhood.
Posted by Louisep on September 3, 2011 at 10:46 PM · Report this
aardvark 222
it is not just white privilege. there is pretty privilege, skinny privilege, girl priv, etc...

also there are a fair share of vocal people from any race that expounds their own virtues to the point of racial superiority and exceptionalism.

Posted by aardvark on September 3, 2011 at 9:25 PM · Report this
221
I was with you until I read this:
"But I noticed that often, white drivers would honk at the men to move aside. It seemed to me the reason they honked was that they were irritated at having an experience that people of color know well: that you're not just entitled to live anywhere you please, that there might be consequences. Honking was an attempt to reassert privilege."

Are you seriously trying to defend assholes swaggering nonchalantly down the middle of the street, blocking traffic? That's dickish behavior, no matter what race you are. It has less to do with racial tension and more to do with people having places to go and being blocked. If you're going to transpose your delicate white guilt onto every situation where white people react unpleasantly to a black person (even when they fucking deserve it), you're damning your own cause and tainting an otherwise worthwhile, urgent message.

Black people are allowed to be evil, or irresponsible, or ignorant too. Because they're fucking people.
Posted by inevitability on September 3, 2011 at 9:10 PM · Report this
220
We all make presumptions based on appearance, mannerism, etc, mostly viewed from afar. Race is a huge component of this. So is dress, speech, what you carry, where you buy your food, etc. In this moment in history, race often drives a kind of "look" on average. But I judge people based on skinny jeans, flip flops, and whether i see them reading on the bus or eating a bag of funions.

Sure, I'm racist. And jeanist and funionist, bookist, starbucksist, and every other kind of judgment based on appearance. If the only bar I have to meet is "you've made a judgment based on x," then I'm the most whateverist motherfucker in history. And that has taught me nothing.

But honestly, I liked this a lot the good parts were better than the bad parts and it took balls to write in this passive aggressive town filled with weak ass pansies when it comes to talking about race.
Posted by nullbull on September 3, 2011 at 9:06 PM · Report this
219
I was with you until here:
"But I noticed that often, white drivers would honk at the men to move aside. It seemed to me the reason they honked was that they were irritated at having an experience that people of color know well: that you're not just entitled to live anywhere you please, that there might be consequences. Honking was an attempt to reassert privilege."

Are you seriously trying to defend assholes swaggering nonchalantly down the middle of the street, blocking traffic? That's dickish behavior, no matter what race you are. It has less to do with racial tension and more to do with people having places to go and being blocked. If you're going to transpose your white guilt onto every situation where white people react unpleasantly to a black person (even when they fucking deserve it), you're damning your own cause and tainting an otherwise worthwhile, urgent message.
Posted by inevitability on September 3, 2011 at 9:04 PM · Report this
218
Racism will continue to exist as long as it is over simplified as a black/white issue- as per the photo of the black/white chairs and most of the article.

Why can't we just be people without all the labels: black, white, gay,lesbian, Muslim, etc.? Why can't we just be whoever we are - just people!? It starts with the forms when my kids started school - picking a race every year was a real challenge for them since they are half Asian half white. (I think the forms have changed by now to mixed - or hopefully it has) This was the beginning of being labeled and also the start of a lifelong identity problems.

The one and only time in my life that I felt accepted for who I was in the sixties when I was a UW student - the hippie era. I marched on the Administration building with the Black Student Union (and consequently lost my job- working in the Ad. building!) I marched in Olympia for the Indian Fishing Rights and of course the anti-war marches..No one cared then what race you were. (there were no Asian causes then or I'd be part of that too!) I dated many blacks and others- my parents didn't care.

Terrible Asian stereotypes that still exist - I hated watching the old Buck Rogers show where the evil woman was the Asian Dragon Lady or whoever she was.
Watching an episode of Friends (a show I never liked but watched a couple times when there was nothing else on) there was a line by one of the main characters "She looks like an Asian hooker!" It seemed-all Asians were the bad guys. I wrote in protest of the Life cereal commercial showing Mikey (even he likes the cereal) and a bunch of other kids loving the cereal including a little black kid) BUT when it goes to the Asian little girl = she turns up her nose and makes a face at eating the cereal and the ad says All kids like Life cereal,unless they are weird!" My kids were little at the time and although most wouldn't see the harm in the ad and may even think it cute, I found it offensive and wrote and it went off the air - although doubtful it was due my letter alone. This shows how insidious racism is -

Recently took 5 trips to the DOL for my adult daughter to get an enhanced ID card since she didn't have a utility bill (she lives with me) I think they thought she might be an illegal Alien because she doesn't look like me and could be mistaken for Mexican. I doubt if this would happen if she were all white.

My son was kicked and beaten & arrested by police when he was in high school because he was Asian while the white boy with him was not touched, even though he was the boy who was accused of throwing apples at cars from the pedestrian bridge in the Arboretum. (they were onlookers - the boys who were the culprits all ran away - my son and the other kid didn't run because they hadn't done anything- but were assumed guilty. The other kid was wearing red shorts which the woman who called in the incident had identified one of the boys as wearing red shorts. My son spent the night in jail with his hands handcuffed behind his back. The other boy slept overnight in Juvenile center in a bed. Anyone who knew my son in high school knew he was the gentlest of kids. He did not resist the arrest. This was a racist act on the part of the police. I filed a complaint & they did an "internal investigation" (what is with that anyway!!??) and they "didn't do any wrong" of course. The police are racist. (yet another story!) Actually the police are bullies which is an even bigger problem I believe than being racist. There are many other times where race made a difference with the police and or where they were the bullies.

I lived through a very bad racist era - post WWII - coming out of Manzanar internment camp where we were forced to live for 4 - losing our homes,businesses,etc. Then after the horrendous train ride from Calif. to Seattle,where my mother grew up (attacked by whites on the train) and then after returning to Seattle and then rented a house near Woodland Park where the neighbors all petitioned to get us out of their precious all white neighborhood. They thew rocks through our front window with messages "Get out or else" written on them. My mother refused to move - (she was feisty- born in Seattle she never considered herself Japanese) so we stayed for 14 years during which time the neighbors never once spoke to us! The unfortunate part was that 2 of the 3 kids in my family had to suffer through tremendous racism in what was then all white schools: West Woodland,Hamilton & Lincoln. I was beaten up on the grade school playground for being 'a Jap". No one would dance with me in the social dance class in high school.(except for the new kid who just arrived from England and didn't know it was not acceptable to dance with the "weird Asian girl" - that is a whole different story!) I was called names galore... ALL by white kids by the way. (no blacks were at any of the schools I attended back then and there were only 2 other Asians in junior high and high school and NONE in grade school) I could not transfer to Garfield because back then you HAD to attend schools in your exact zone and I lived across the street from the dividing line to go to Ballard where my classmates from West Woodland went. That was unfortunate as I was in the same class group from lst through 6th grade and we all got along very well (it was the other kids in the school who picked on me) I was so lucky to be in that great group of kids and one is still my best friend. There was no racism in my class in part because we were together from age 6 until junior high when we separated and because I just happened to be in a wonderful group.

My oldest sister went to Garfield because she was a live-in nanny to a OB doc with 6 or 7 young kids in exclusive Broadmoor. She had a great HS experience- was in the Fun Fest (annual music production) with Quincy Jones (says he was quite ladies man even then) and she marveled at the diversity - the rich kids from Broadmoor and Montlake and the rest -the Asians and Blacks - and they all got along she recalls. It was the same for the kids I met at the UW in the sixties who went to Garfield. (their classmate was Jimmy Hendrix. My famous classmate was Rick Kaminski,the Mariner's peanut guy)

Of course it all changed at Garield after the forced bussing and also when the APP program turned the school into the 2 schools in one that still exists today. The sister 5 years younger had the opposite experience than her older sibling at all white Lincoln HS. She so hated school that she never went to a single reunion until her death.

Growing up was the line I hated "Why don't you go back where you came from?! Of course it was assumed I CAME from Japan even though I was a 3rd generation American! There were times I really wanted to go back to Manzanar,Calif.- but it no longer existed - it was just some rubble and tumbleweed in the middle nowhere in the Mohave Desert I found out when I did go back.

The real problem with racism is it is visual. I would not be targeted as the enemy growing up if I were German and if my parents were Nazis - because European immigrants couldn't be visually separated. Chinese-Americans had to wear buttons that said "I am Chinese" during the war years. I have worked for years in Seattle Schools and I found racism still exists. Interestingly one of my most recent racist experiences involved a Japanese-American district administrator.(another lengthy story)

My final story is not so much racism as preferencial treatment. When I try to cross a busy street after getting off the bus after work - at a corner without a light - if it is just me, or me and another older woman (of any race) no one stops for me/us, but if a tall young blond girl walks up to the corner - the cars ALWAYS come to an immediate screeching halt!

And yes,I believe we all are at least a little racist - My mother was anti-Japanese and refused to visit Japan when my father wanted to visit his family. She was born in Seattle. (the lst and only time he returned after arriving here in 1920 -was after my mother died) It makes me so mad when people want to keep America for the whites (what ever happened to David Duke anyway? )because the only REAL Americans are the Native Americans and everyone else is a foreigner. (and there is another story...)

PS this may be a repeat story because my lst attempt at a reply somehow disappeared midway and I don't know where it went!


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Posted by mik on September 3, 2011 at 6:58 PM · Report this
217
Your headline was so offensive that I almost didn't read the article. Why should white people be "deeply embarrassed"? There is nothing embarrassing about the color of my skin, or my ethnic heritage from Northern Europe. I don't have to fucking apologize for it, and neither should anyone else. I also am too busy trying to keep my head above water and keep my life together in this economy to give a shit whether people choose to self-segregate or not. it's true - most people feel most comfortable interacting with other people with whom they identify. People identify with other people on MANY different levels, only one of which is race. Take a look at some wealthy zip codes on the Eastside - only 60% of the residents are white. I think your view of how the world works is pretty outdated.
Posted by EastsideAphrodite on September 3, 2011 at 6:55 PM · Report this
216
I hate this headline. WHY should white people be "deeply embarrassed"? Why should I be embarrassed by the color of my skin, or the origin of my ancestors?
Posted by EastsideAphrodite on September 3, 2011 at 6:42 PM · Report this
215
Is Trader Joe's too white? Sheeeeiiiiittt! I don't know. Is Popeye's Chicken and Bicuts too black?

The Downtown Y is absurdely Anglo? What's so absurd about Anglo architecture. Myself, I like gothic, epecially the gargoyles on the ledges.

Loping? To me loping says: I will go out of my way to make your day a little bit shittier. I live in Renton. If I loped in the middle of Ranier Ave, white motorists would be honking and cussing me out, but so would blacks, asians, mexicans and just about everyone else. And they would be justified. I think that anyone caught in a traffic jam, which is all of us, could agree that loping is an asshole move, regardless of one's skin color.

One last thing, one of the things that I respect about both blacks and rednecks is that they are a proud people, and I like proud people. I wish that some of these white "anti-racists" could learn to take pride in their culture, heritage and themselves.
Posted by j.j.rex on September 3, 2011 at 4:41 PM · Report this
214
Thank you for this. So very, very well-written. I'm white (+), female (-), older (-), disabled (-). That one + trumps the three minuses. When I became homeless, after becoming disabled, that whiteness, that middle-class upbringing, got me back out of homelessness, into SSDI, into Section 8, much faster than others I saw who were not white. Very strange, to be disabled, to have well below poverty-level income, to be in low-income housing, and still feel so very grateful, because I know how privileged I am, in comparison with so many others.
Posted by glinda_w on September 3, 2011 at 3:24 PM · Report this
213

To be 'brutally honest',
"It might suppose" me ? No, that merely amuses me.
When you simplistically label my argument "demonizing all rich people and all businesses" you are demonstrating the typical intellectually lazy American knee-jerk reaction that is such a piss-poor excuse for rational thought. Another lazy, canned response is labeling any position that doesn't follow some Grover Norquist-approved Tea-bagger Party line as "Socialism". You show a fundamental misunderstanding of what socialism is,and probably of other ideologies, such as fascism for example.

It might surprise you to learn that Benito 'il Duce' Mussolini endorsed some of the views you expressed here. Yet I do not accuse you of being a Fascist, just of being yet another lazy,ill-informed, poorly-educated American who blatantly mischaracterizes the positions of his fellow citizens.

The prevalence of such non-thinking in this country has led us to what Gore Vidal called a One-party system(to paraphrase): in America there is only one party, the Property Party, and it has two right wings, the Republicans and the Democrats...
Posted by Count No'count on September 3, 2011 at 2:33 PM · Report this
Posted by simplystix on September 3, 2011 at 12:03 PM · Report this
211 Comment Pulled (Duplicate) Comment Policy
210
@count no'count

It might suppose you that I'm not some right wing, fox news listener, nor am I an "obident wage slave". Niether are most people who don't agree with socalism.

Are there evil rich people, yes, same way there are evil poor people. Do some people have more money that I ever will, yes, the same way some people have talents I'll never have.

It's simplistic to demonize though, all rich people, all buinesses, and all capatlism beliefs. You probably think people who don't agree with you are brain washed, and that we are all "parroting standard issue...responses", but if I had a nickel, being from the east coast, every time I've heard something similar to your post above, well maybe then I too could hire my own PR staff.
Posted by brutallyhonest on September 3, 2011 at 11:43 AM · Report this
209
Speaking of ignorance and refusal to see, no amount of soft-headed pollyanna wishful thinking will change the verifiable, objective facts that contribute to the poverty and violence all around you. Educate yourself- you can start by Doing The Math. Ask yourself: do you actually have any clue how the current maldistribution of wealth in this country looks compared to other industrial societies,and the connection to our current high unemployment rate (which has reached 1930s Depression-era levels for several industries and demographic groups.) Your job may be next.

As our modern-day robber barons twirling their mustaches, Steve B**mer and his fellow billionaires cackle with satisfaction at the obedient wage-slaves, dutifully parroting standard-issue press release responses("don't demonize us"-"it's their Money" hear hear good show). The corporate PR hacks on Fox news are proud of you all.

Oh and by the way, we are giving your coder job to a new H1B visa hire next month. Please show your team spirit in training our newest employee, then clear out your desk and Security will escort you off the premises. Good night and good luck.
Posted by Count No'count on September 3, 2011 at 10:37 AM · Report this
208
"so many of the comments confirm or illustrate the very points made by the author. so much defensiveness"

If I don't agree with the author it proves I'm racist, or perhaps I think my life experience is as valid as those disagree with me? I would get defensive and offended if someone suggested I was a child molester, that doesn't mean I am one? The only "non-racist" whites are the ones who admit they are racist?
Posted by Andrew S. on September 3, 2011 at 10:00 AM · Report this
207
On MLK Jr Day last year KUOW had a program where black folks were encouraged to call in and talk about their experiences with racism in Seattle. Ironically enough not ONE of them who claimed Seattle was soooo racist had anything close to the abuse from whites that I've had from blacks. Blacks are encouraged to vent about whites, whites are called racist if they do the same. How many blacks have ever been physically threatened or verbally abused in Seattle by whites while walking down the street minding their own business? Not many. Most white folks I know have.
Posted by Andrew S. on September 3, 2011 at 9:58 AM · Report this
KittenKoder 206
@205 I share the same observation all the time, people need to stop demonizing everyone, the "white", the "rich", the corporations, etc. in order to see progress, otherwise their minds will inherently find them as an aggressor even when they are trying to help.
Posted by KittenKoder http://digitalnoisegraffiti.com/ on September 3, 2011 at 9:45 AM · Report this
205
One thing I cannot stand is this distrubute the wealth screeds. A person ought to have a right to do with his money as he wished, and not have to "do good". Some of you really imagine the rich, twirling the moustaches, cackling "No how can we maintain control"
Posted by brutallyhonest on September 3, 2011 at 9:40 AM · Report this
204
thank you, this article is heartening. not surprisingly, so many of the comments confirm or illustrate the very points made by the author. so much defensiveness. so much refusal to see.
Posted by newmeadow http://www.whitegirlblackface.com on September 3, 2011 at 9:18 AM · Report this
203 Comment Pulled (Duplicate) Comment Policy
202
meh.
There is a lot in this article that smacks of self-congratulatory philanthropy among noblesse oblige-ridden whitey guilt groups. A great deal more would be accomplished by a few simple changes to the tax code to reverse the grotesque hoarding of wealth by those who now purchase Picassos and commission Chihulys. Then we could proceed to abolition of the overseas slave trade promoted by many of the same hyper-privileged individuals, and their insistence on the forced deporting of American jobs without regard to the societal consequences. This is what has affected racial tensions among Americans of all colors, more than any other factors you can name.

Spend enough time out of the comfort of your coffee-talk salons,and you will realize that all the humans out there are racist to varying individual degrees. Except the liars of course- they are "Not Racist". The various tribal subgroups are all judging each other, all the time, every day. Racism is a universal and omnidirectional phenomenon, rendering terms like 'reverse-racism' redundant and misleading.

As Nelson Mandela observes in an on-air PSA "No one was born hating another person for the color of their skin, religion, or background. Hatred has to be learned..."
But all humans are born with a brain that has evolved into a wonderful pattern recognition engine,that excels at categorizing and assigning causality to a lifetime of inputs, experiences, observations. Social conflicts and all sorts of toxic thought processes seem to arise when the higher-order pattern recognition engine becomes enslaved to the lower-level primitive 'reptilian brain' that deals with the instincts, impulses and snap judgments so vital to survival and earlier evolution.
Posted by Count No'count on September 3, 2011 at 4:18 AM · Report this
balderdash 201
I hate that "white" is the operative term here. I hate that the relevant adjectives continue to be about skin color and not culture, and that it continues to be presented as a simple problem of personal attitudes rather than a complicated issue of cultural inertia. I hate that the descriptors used are so simplistic and that that leads to assholes like "TikofTok" sounding like they're just sane dickheads, not utterly cracked, when they launch into "white rights" screeds.

I hate that the condition of this whole cultural dialogue has led to this piece leaving a bad taste in my mouth, instead of just letting me appreciate a good editorial.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on September 3, 2011 at 2:43 AM · Report this
white hotel 200
yay jen! this piece is excellent and really valuable. I've shared elsewhere. thanks for writing it! <3
Posted by white hotel http://bunnyrabble.wordpress.com on September 3, 2011 at 1:08 AM · Report this
198
@182: And I see your points, too.

While this article was indeed, an eye-opener for me, and yes, like others have already mentioned, a bit long, I don't and won't feel ashamed about being white, just as nobody else should be made to feel about their origins, either.

This sure opens up a panel for discussion, though, doesn't it?
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 2, 2011 at 11:31 PM · Report this
197
yeah- let's tap this powder keg hard enough to hear the hollow part...

Seattle is about the most hand-wringingly half-assed racist city I've ever been in. The most dishonestly 'pro-diversity' town too. At least down south in Miami or up north in Boston, people are more honest about not much liking your white/black/brown ass around here (i.e. in 'their' neighborhood).

One thing you will learn traveling, whether civilian or military, is that almost every major city in the world has areas where people will try to kill you because of what you look like(and whatever the locals, rightly or wrongly, perceive that represents). It makes no difference in combat whether you are being attacked for your 'ethnicity' or not. The more unevenly distributed the wealth,the more dangerous the city, except in outright police states like China and parts of the U.S. and A. for example.

If you want greater safety and peaceful coexistence in your city-state-nation, either distribute the wealth more evenly, or pay the price of Police statehood. Unfortunately, America has chosen the latter. This includes the American subcultures who worship Wall Street tycoons,as well as those that promote the virtues of bling, gun-toting and Thug Life.
Posted by Count No'count on September 2, 2011 at 10:26 PM · Report this
195
#193: You seem disturbingly obsessed with crimes of rape.
Posted by frogger1995 on September 2, 2011 at 9:07 PM · Report this
194
I see a lot of posts about it being "class" not "race" that's the real issue. It's not either/or. The two go hand in hand. I'll be anyone claiming it's ONLY the former, is probably white. Hence the term white privilege!
Posted by frogger1995 on September 2, 2011 at 8:58 PM · Report this
TikofTok 193
Hopefully, this wont be taken as trolling but I am tired of this type of talk. It's pure ignorance. I find it so strange that the biggest enemy to white equality are whites themselves. Whites are the biggest victims of hate crimes, over the past 30 years, the average cost to every white family to affirmation is in the thousands, now it's into the tens of thousands. It's a race tax. Whites commit less crime per capita. Why don't you check the crime statistics of California for example. Is this so called discrimination an excuse for monumental rape crime %? How can 5% of the population commit 40% of the rape crime then say that it is THEY who are discriminated against?

People talk of this white priviledge but does your heart weep for the thousands of whites who are discriminated against in Africa? The peace workers gangraped anually or the whites being genocided. Do you ask Africans or East Asians about their so called priviledge? No you don't. You openly complain about ''whiteness'' and want to ostracize it without talking about the negaitves of this diversity. Where is this priviledge? Are added taxes based upon race and entitlements really a priviledge? Sounds more like punishment.

You understand races self segregate. This isn't social, this is biological, it's genetic. It's self determination. 90% of black voters voted for Obama. Black areas vote for black politicians. You claim it as harmful, it isn't. It's self determination.

I don't believe either races are superior but we are different. It is people like you who assume superiority by claiming that races have to act like us. We are different genetically, biologically. It doesn't mean people don't have constitutional rights or citizenship or that they aren't American but in reality, the US, Europe and Australia are lands made for and by white people. It should remain that way. Noone should claim that they aren't. You don't go to Africa and say it isn't for Africans. It is because of people like you, we are now openly discrimianted against by law and socially. We are told our culture, race are naturally bad and need to be stamped out.

I do hope that when this great divesification happens that your egalitarian dream comes true but it wont. South Africa, Haiti, Zimbabwe and every other multi cultural/ multi racial community ends up with one side annhilating the other or the nations break apart.

It never works, it never will work and the only time, THE ONLY time it ever works is under totalitarian governments.

I prefer Liberty and TRUE equality.

This is coming from a Londoner who sees first hand the changes and dangers in this egalitarian dream. I see the crime rates sky rocket among immigrant populations, mainly african populations but of course, whites say it is discrimination. But I ask, where is the crime rate by Europeans in Africa? Why don't Europeans commit such radical crime in such heavy discriminatory enviroements and can anyone truly dare claim that Britain was ever discriminating? We gave chances they never had, laws, rights, housing, welfare, affirmation, boundless and endless leaps of faith. Where has it got us? When was the last time a group of white males kidnapped and gangraped an african girl for hours then poured bleach inside her to destroy the evidence? Never, the opposite on the other hand happens more often that people dare talk about.

Now we even have zones being claimed by Jihaddists placing their ''Sharia Controlled Stickers'' wherever they can daring to enforce their foriegn laws on sovereign soil. A land that invited them without the permission of its people yet still accomodated and taken care of.

Look at London. That is your Egalitarian dream. Look at Detroit, was that discrimination too? Like you say, only whites are racist because of our ''priviledge.'' Egalitarianism is cultural and racial suicide.
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Posted by TikofTok on September 2, 2011 at 5:37 PM · Report this
TikofTok 192
Hopefully, this wont be taken as trolling but I am tired of this type of talk. It's pure ignorance. I find it so strange that the biggest enemy to white equality are whites themselves. Whites are the biggest victims of hate crimes, over the past 30 years, the average cost to every white family to affirmation is in the thousands, now it's into the tens of thousands. It's a race tax.

People talk of this white priviledge but does your heart weep for the thousands of whites who are discriminated against in Africa? The peace workers gangraped anually or the whites being genocided. Do you ask Africans or East Asians about their so called priviledge? No you don't. You openly complain about ''whiteness'' and want to ostracize it without talking about the negaitves of this diversity.

You understand races self segregate. This isn't social, this is biological, it's genetic. It's self determination. 90% of black voters voted for Obama. Black areas vote for black politicians. You claim it as harmful, it isn't. It's self determination.

I don't believe either races are superior but we are different. It is people like you who assume superiority by claiming that races have to play along to OUR level. We are different genetically, biologically. It doesn't mean people don't have constitutional rights or citizenship or even the act they are American. But in reality, the US, Europe and Australia are lands made for and by white people. It should remain that way. But it isn't and because of people like you, we are now openly discrimianted against by law and socially. We are told our culture, race are naturally bad and need to be stamped out.

I do hope that when this great divesication happens that your egalitarian dream comes true but it wont. South Africa, Haiti, Zimbabwe and everyother multi cultural/ multi racial community ends up with one side annhilating the other or the natons break apart.

It never works, it never will work and the only time, THE ONLY time it ever works is under totalitarian governments.

I prefer Liberty and TRUE equality.
More...
Posted by TikofTok on September 2, 2011 at 5:16 PM · Report this
191
Good piece. I think that Jen's artical goes a long way towards promoting racial integration because it made me realize that I'd rather be stuck in a room full of black people than to be stuck in a room full of guilt-ridden, self-loathing white people. But lest ye think I discriminate, I would rather be stuck in a room full of rednecks than to be stuck in a room full of guilt-ridden, self-loathing white people.
Posted by j.j.rex on September 2, 2011 at 4:34 PM · Report this
190
@#188:

In answer to your first question: No. I don't think that's what the author is expressing. Furthermore, I have begun to recognize this question as a bit of a counterproductive mechanism--when one answers the question and says, "Of course not--people of other ethnicities can be racially-prejudiced, too," certain people take that answer and go, "So everybody's racist, no further discussion, the end." And cosmic order is restored.

To speak more colorfully (but to stay on topic), that question has become an invasive "loop" of sorts, a weird mini-vortex endlessly collapsing and folding into itself while preventing the progression of the conversation. Some people intentionally use this as a mechanism in debate (I forget the actual term), if only in the interest of obtaining some sort of self-satisfying "victory" without having to go further down the road. Down the road, there lies the danger of having to put one's true self in the picture--that danger simply cannot be afforded, so...throw in a quick logic-loop to shut the whole thing down.

Anyway, I would guess that you enjoy a substantial amount of exposure to current events. With that in mind, and with such a large degree of access to information at your disposal, I find it difficult to grasp that you would--with a clear mind and conscience, I assume--present to rational and informed human beings the idea that Americans of non-European cultural origin (read: black, Asian, Latino, whatever) are astonishingly incapable of accepting the possibility that they, themselves, are capable of racial prejudice. This implies that they are incapable of thinking for themselves. That is a scientifically-incorrect; furthermore, it creates that same logic-loop that prevents conversations from progressing into more remarkable areas.

What I'm saying is that you're walking into a twenty-first century conversation with twentieth-century ideas. Move OUT of that, into a more potent and effective level of discourse about the topic.
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Posted by MarsNova on September 2, 2011 at 4:19 PM · Report this
Rich Jensen 189
Wow! You're very articulate!

(Great piece. Essential threads for further discussion if Seattle is to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.)
Posted by Rich Jensen http://bit.ly/donateSAWANT on September 2, 2011 at 3:25 PM · Report this
188
So. Only white people can be racist? Is that the theme here?

Or we going to have an actual honest discussion about race? Because that's what the article said it was about. But it's apparently not about honest discussion. Not if most of the comments in this thread are any indication.

Because, while I really liked the article over all, if we're going just stop at the purely academic definition of Racism — which is now a simplistic "WHITEY IS EVIL" kind of cartoonish view of racism — nothing is going to change. Outside of these echo chambers constantly resorting to overused ill-defined reactionary buzz words like "privilege" won't do shit.

Racism is deeper than that. And so far most of what I see here is same old shit that hasn't accomplished a fucking thing in making peoples lives on the ground better.
Posted by tkc on September 2, 2011 at 3:14 PM · Report this
187
Actually, the definition of "racism" stipulates a belief in the inherent superiority of some races over others or abusive behavior based on such a belief. It can be a person (of any color), a government or an institution that's racist. To suggest, as this teacher did, that having a single racist thought makes you "racist" is like saying that having a single homosexual fantasy makes you "gay": this attitude trivializes and oversimplifies a deeper orientation to the world. The class of educated, liberal, middle-class white suburbanites the author so snidely dismisses are, as a group, the least racist people you’ll meet. They have probably observed and interrogated their own racial attitudes and, if they attended a typical liberal arts school, endured their fair share of derisive swipes about the shortcomings of their own middle-class white American culture. If they’re naïve about the latest trend in white culpability, it's probably because they’re unconflicted about race and, therefore, less likely to seek discourse about it. They’re also easy targets for academics and activists with a philosophical axe to grind because, unlike the racist Latinos, racist Asians, racist blacks and racist Native Americans in Seattle, the white kids’ culture doesn’t come shielded by a narrative of oppression that deflects criticism from outsiders. Speaking from personal experience, the most corrosive racist comments I regularly hear come from Asian immigrants, and the only people I have heard use the so-called “N word” in the past 20 years have been Cubans. So, racism is a much more complicated problem than just the attitudes of whites. I think it’s perfectly natural to notice racial differences and the impact of race on culture and class and, considering our national heritage of discrimination, it’s also natural to entertain ideas of racial superiority or inferiority: whether or not you’re a “racist”, however, depends on whether you stay stuck in those ideas.
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Posted by JayWills on September 2, 2011 at 3:10 PM · Report this
John Horstman 186
@182: Racism is about social privilege, not bigotry on an individual level. That's the whole point of the article: "Awash in its racial conundrum, America has delightful people who are perfectly comfortable with widening segregation and yawning socioeconomic inequality that often breaks along racial lines." You've experienced anti-White bigotry, not racism.
Posted by John Horstman on September 2, 2011 at 1:19 PM · Report this
185
Instead of white guilt meetings (CARW) if you're so concerned, make friends with people of color and people in other cultures.

White worry and guilt hide the fear that people of color are just as smart and capable as caucasians. Enabling p.o.c. to depend on the system is a vile form of racism.

Make quality education free and available, and this becomes a non-issue.

...also, don't expect other cultures to act like your own. There are plenty of white cultures I don't want to be around (loud bike people, drunk homeless white men, hipsters), and I don't judge them because they don't think as I do. I just don't befriend them, and that's ok.
Posted by z-j nice on September 2, 2011 at 12:19 PM · Report this
184
Instead of white people meetings (CARW), why not go out of your way to befriend a people of color. Get to know other cultures. You may feel awkward, but everyone will have to feel uncomfortable for a while to truly see change.

All this worry and guilt covers up the fear that maybe people of color are just as smart and capable as white people.

Don't expect other cultures to act like you.

Posted by z-j nice on September 2, 2011 at 12:10 PM · Report this
183
As I mixed race person, I will admit that honestly I am kind of racist. I prefer to live in gentrified neighborhoods, I have one of two black/mixed race people I know, but really I've just sort of fallen, settled into white society, and I'm most comfortable with it.

When I take the metro home, and I hear someone speak in African American vernucalur, I discount them. When I walk home, and I see an "urban" person, I do think, is he going to mug me.

I don't look black (if anything I look Greek or Turkish). There are all sorts of privelages I have, that I know if I was tradinally black, I wouldn't. I don't have a job, but I live in a nice enough apartment, and I'm finding myself, I'm not unemployed, but I'm one of those young people finding what they want to do, I'm in a period of transition, I'm trying to self actualize. I'm taking a break from school, and just finished an internship, and plan on spending the next year abroad.

If I were "black" I'd be an conisdered a college drop out, unemployed. Why don't I get myself a job? Because my parents have means, I don't have to work, and can take time off, but somehow I'm consdiered better than someone on welfare trying to get started on their rap carrer, cause I'm trying to write short fiction, cause I may want to work in government.

It's not expected I'll ever perminatlly be in the service industry, if I was I would have failed, but if I were "black" look at him, he's making a living. The rub of it is, I'd be lying if I said, I don't consider myself better than that guy, because I do. I don't feel any kinship really. I expect certain things out of my life, others do, because socially I'm white, my physcal affections, my speech patterns, how I think, how I act, and really how I look. I don't look black. My nose is a little wide, and my lips a little thick, but nothing that really says what I am. I have a light tan, but some english people are darken than me, and I can part my hair. I could easily be Italin, or from Potragal, or Greece.

I have friends who are promiscous, and it's bohemian cause they are white, and for the most part well to do. If they were black, some other choice words would come to mind. I drink hard, but it's craft beers, and the bars are full of young proffesinals, so it's a sort of endering drunkenss.

In college I'd horse around, it wasn't look at those hoodlums, no, it was college boys being college boys (I knew a guy who stole a sign, you know things like that), if it were a black guy the same age, well you wouldn't think of it the same. It would either be criminal, or look what society does, look they act out because of oppression, not because it's an animal house-esque prank.

That's racism. Holding one group to a lower standard, for what is successfull, and a different standard for whats just having a good time, versus being a problem.
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Posted by brutallyhonest on September 2, 2011 at 11:44 AM · Report this
182
Jesus Christ, the "walk slow in the middle of the street" is the biggest racist "fuck you" I see every time I drive in Rainier Valley.

This article needs a follow-up, called "Blacks Are Racists, Too." I have directly experienced plenty of overt racism from blacks. I've lived and worked downtown (in a different, Southern city), ridden the bus for years, and worked with plenty of black folks. Fine people, lots of them. But some of them are just as racist as the KKK, and no one ever has the balls to call bullshit on them.

Want racism to end? Confront it, everywhere. No excuses. I'm fine with spending public money on education and jobs for minorities, the poor, etc. But I will NOT be guilted about being white, and I will not be put in the "you're the only racist" box.

I agree with the sentiment that we are all racists. However, a previous poster nailed it -- I'm a culturist. As long as black Americans stick to their culture of worshiping the Thug, celebrating thug life and gang life, then fuck'em. Fuck that culture. If they abandon it, and want to grow out of it, then I welcome them with open arms. Marry my daughter. Run my schools. But I'm not going to hold my breath -- I see the seething hostility of young black men where-ever I go, and I will not pretend it does not exist, I will not excuse it, I will not be held hostage by white man's guilt.
Posted by nuh_uh on September 2, 2011 at 11:01 AM · Report this
lilmonster206 181
Great article, Jen! One thing I love most about visiting other cities like Austin is the diversity that's everywhere. When I mention it to people here, they don't seem to know what I'm talking about...it's pretty sad. I would LOVE if capitol hill would turn into more of a Mission-style place to live.
Posted by lilmonster206 on September 2, 2011 at 10:42 AM · Report this
180
We came across this blog and decided to chime in. It's good that You have organizations of European Americans that are against racism but from our experiences across the United States, European Americans don't really ever have to experience racism so they never have to nor truly understand how to fight it.
Unfortunately because so man European Americans are still enjoying the benefits and opportunities that European Americans get from it i.e access, jobs, privilege, power, opportunity, preferred treatment and reasonable doubt.
Ya see what so African American see are what European Americans see & are just truly don't want to admit are the aforementioned facts that racism brings to European Americans which makes African Americans want to now reinforce their own, just like European Americans do. It's not just the horrific history that's between the two cultures, but its' the denial by European Americans that they have the benefits that the world over knows comes directly off the backs of African Americans.
If European Americans really want to end racism and not just be against it, then they need to make racists and bigots uncomfortable to be the way that they are. 1)This would mean busting them out when you see European Americans discriminating and or giving preferential treatment to other European Americans over African Americans 2)stop acting like you don't SEE IT when it's been right before you for a while now, then expecting DOUBLE A's to be cool with you after you just ignored what just went down...cause that ain't gon happpen!
When European Americans are serious about fighting racism, they will be Proactive in removing advantages that whites give each other ALL THE TIME based off of race.
Then we'll deal with the stereotypes and false perceptions later. If not then you should expect and accept that African Americans will actively follow suit in using the same measures that you do, but more in the form of protection because this is something that European Americans would have forced into the American atmosphere for centuries now.
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Posted by AFRICANAMERICAN1.COM on September 2, 2011 at 10:34 AM · Report this
179
Glad you wrote this article. Happy to see all of the discussion here. People need to think about this more. I'm mixed race so I experience different aspects of race perception.

Don't assume you know everything about someone based on appearance. It's pretty simple. When you generalize, you limit your understanding and experience.
Posted by flyingpuppy on September 2, 2011 at 10:18 AM · Report this
juanalonso 178
Thanks for writing this, Jen! This is a conversation that needs to be on-going.
Posted by juanalonso http://www.juanalonso.info on September 2, 2011 at 10:07 AM · Report this
177
@166: What you have to remember is that Seattle was pretty much a backwater until the 1990s. So it feels provincial because in a way it *was* until quite recently. Seattleites are a bit schitzophrenic about this -- they often talk longingly of a desire to return to a "lesser Seattle" without the traffic and housing problems brought by all the newcomers, but at the same time they're painfully self-conscious about wanting to be a "world class city."
Posted by Orv on September 2, 2011 at 9:19 AM · Report this
176
@6 & 8

I've got to say that any professor, much less an art professor, asking students to raise their hand if their racist is so stupid to me that it is such a turn off that I would have a very difficult time getting into any conversation about race no matter how interesting and/or societly necessary it was. I almost didn't read the article because it struck me, too, as a lame professor trying to be edgy and "thought provoking".

As it was, the article was basically fine if not way too long. The points that it brought up were largely valid. I read the author's comment @7 and can buy that this question was a painfully ackward stumbling attempt at leading into a potentially worthwhile discussion of race, but I think a lead-in that lame is highly at risk of dooming the conversation to failure.

What I don't get are the number of comments telling @6 & 8 how she's too dumb to understand anything in the following coversation.

"Racist" is indeed generally defined as holding one race as being superior/inferior to another. If you want to have a conversation about the legitimate issues of white priviledge or forcing a shift in perspective to minority view, then fine, but the whole "everyone's a little racist" lead in is just so vacuous sounding pseudo intellectual day time talk show host wisdom spewing I would have been deeply pained to have felt academically obligated to stay in that room- especially for an ART class.

I think that, in many ways, the fact that people are so unused to discussing these subjects that they suffer *and* inflict pain in just trying to discuss things in relatively uncharacted waters is as much a part of the story as any other aspect that was discussed.
Posted by sweet g on September 2, 2011 at 9:15 AM · Report this
175
I usually ignore the comment sections of articles. That people can express openly is fantastic, but that it may be anonymous is another piece of evidence that we have soooo much farther to grow in learning about and accepting eachother. If this kind of conversation would happen in the open to the people you are speaking about, dear commenters, then maybe we could dissolve a little of this wall between us!! I want to thank you, Jen, for writing this. though I am in NY now (a place where diversity thrives, and where people tell you straight up what their problem with you is [hmmm]), my family is still in seattle, i grew up there, am half white and half black, i went to cornish 15 years ago and Seattle didn't have a satisfying audience for my work then. The repression Seattle has always had is what pushed me to find my audience and my home elsewhere. Confusion is a hhhuge step in the right direction! I admire that you were able to leave your students with that. It is so so so refreshing to see glimmers of exposure and hope and self-consciousness emerge in seatown!
Posted by heather hart http://www.heather-hart.com on September 2, 2011 at 8:55 AM · Report this
174
I usually ignore the comment sections of articles. That people can express openly is fantastic, but that it may be anonymous is another piece of evidence that we have soooo much farther to grow in learning about and accepting eachother. If this kind of conversation would happen in the open to the people you are speaking about, dear commenters, then maybe we could dissolve a little of this wall between us!! I want to thank you, Jen, for writing this. though I am in NY now (a place where diversity thrives, and where people tell you straight up what their problem with you is [hmmm]), my family is still in seattle, i grew up there, am half white and half black, i went to cornish 15 years ago and Seattle didn't have a satisfying audience for my work then. The repression Seattle has always had is what pushed me to find my audience and my home elsewhere. Confusion is a hhhuge step in the right direction! I admire that you were able to leave your students with that. It is so so so refreshing to see glimmers of exposure and hope and self-consciousness emerge in seatown!
Posted by heather hart http://www.heather-hart.com on September 2, 2011 at 8:50 AM · Report this
173
If white people were attacking black people unprovoked left and right it would be considered a hate crime and blacks would be openly talking about it.
Blacks attack white people unprovoked left and right and it is practially considered a hate crime to notice it.
The latest example in someone who was stomped in Belltown the beginning of August. His throat was stomped on. How is 5-6 black folks stomping on a white person's throat not a hate crime, but the other way around is?
Posted by Andrew S. on September 2, 2011 at 8:38 AM · Report this
172
"And it doesn’t even take an education to see that white starlets get slap on the wrists for drinking and driving/drug possessions, while black rappers are doing serious jail time for the same crimes"

And in Seattle a white man was sentenced to more time in jail (9 months) for calling a black person a racial slur (he was charged with a hate crime) then black men were sentenced to for stomping an elderly man to death (the TubaMan). I have been threatened unprovoked by black folks on several occasions in Seattle, and have seen similar things happen to other people, and on some occasions anti-gay slurs were used. Never were they arrested even though threatening someone is actually a crime.
White men in Jasper TX are on death row for killing a black man in a hate crime, the dozen black men who killed a Jewish man in a hate crime in Crown Heights got off scott free, with the blessing of the "civil rights" "anti racist" activists. Black folks DO get away with a lot, it's just considered racist to notice it.
Posted by Andrew S. on September 2, 2011 at 8:30 AM · Report this
BombasticMO 171
Awesome article. I'd also give a shout out to the Minority Executive Director's Coalition, who also have (had?) an amazing anti-racism training. It was mind blowing.

Posted by BombasticMO http://www.BombasticMo.com on September 2, 2011 at 8:19 AM · Report this
KittenKoder 170
@166 Uuuuuh ... no .... "reverse racism" is a catch phrase to demonize people who really are against racism, in all form. It does this by lumping us all with the idiots who want actual forced segregation. Naturally occurring segregation cannot just be forced out of people, it happens on both "sides" a lot. Try visiting a shelter, where there are a hundred people, evenly populated by various "types" or "races", you will see a majority will congregate with others who look like them, but how they treat each other depends on the subclass, not the appearance. Homophobic people will treat those who they know as gay very badly, regardless of their physical appearance, junkies will generally try to befriend everyone by treating them nice while not regarding them as equals. The once wealthy ones will typically treat everyone else with too much respect (strange but true, there is such a thing) but you can see the guilt and regret in their eyes. Now many will say "but these are homeless people" .... hate to break it to you, but homeless people are just like you, there is no difference, and a shelter is a great place to see a very large number of different types of people forced to co-exist in a small space. The psychological dynamics of this situation should be studied much more than it is, it's mind boggling to see, and these are not all Seattleites, many are from other areas of the country as well, transplanted for various reasons. They don't have the luxury of avoiding a neighborhood they fear.

I grew up in a mostly "white" neighborhood for the last portion of my childhood, Covington. Spent a lot of my childhood in Tukwila as well, the rest I can't remember. I honestly had no feelings about this whole race issue, and still don't. All humans suck, it's human nature to suck. But we all suck equally, just in different ways. The part that's hard for people to admit is that granting special privileges to any one group is prejudice, no matter how you spin it. No law should be prejudiced, ever, in any way, at all, period. The "white privilege" idea is a myth, it's an old concept that went out, it's the same as saying "straight privilege", which I could claim exists but I know that would be a lie. For one, it would have to be a conspiracy to accomplish this, since there are a lot of the "other" side in positions of power they would have to somehow be in on it as well, which just destroys the "white privilege" and "straight privilege" and any other "... privilege" claim.

As for your claims that Seattle doesn't know, very wrong, most of us grew up going to forced desegregated schools, and the schools suffered a lot for it having to bus kids in from all over, our buses were almost never on time and the budgets were spread so thin, the teachers had too many students as well. It was a mess then because of it, every student suffered, and it wasn't the "white" folk who pushed to end it there.
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Posted by KittenKoder http://digitalnoisegraffiti.com/ on September 2, 2011 at 7:53 AM · Report this
169
Ok, so I shouldn’t call an eloquent African-American person "eloquent" and I shouldn’t call an African American boy a "boy". (I was once instructed by an African American woman that I shouldn’t say "May I help you?" to African American customers because that term was used to scare black people out of white stores). I should tolerate black men walking in the street and refusing to let me pass because they are "claiming ownership". I should scorn certain grocery store chains because they’re "stuff white people like". I should avoid buying or renting in a black neighborhood lest I "gentrify". I should experience my own accomplishments in life through a lens darkened by the shadow of white privilege. I should accept the label of "racist" applied to me by somebody else without objection. I should build a different vocabulary, and use a different set of behaviors and hold to different expectations the African Americans in my life than other groups. Most importantly, since I lack the intellectual integrity to understand and define my own intentions, behaviors and feelings about race, I should accept somebody else’s definition of what I am, what I intend, what I stand for and how I interact in the world. And this is the level of accommodation and self-reproach that white people must voluntarily provide in order to for America to move forward on race??? Really??
Posted by JayWills on September 2, 2011 at 7:43 AM · Report this
168
I had an earlier point about homophobia and racism, I'm not suggesting any behavior for anybody, but rather pointing out that it is not possible for a black man to appear as anything else in our society, not even for a moment. That, in my mind, is a key difference between homophopia and racism.

I'm now curious about the difference between racism and bigotry, as I read comments many of the things labeled as racist or racism appear to me to be bigotry. The two ideas seem pretty similar and very different all at the same time.
Posted by Beaulen on September 2, 2011 at 7:42 AM · Report this
167
A good article, but long.

I want to make a couple points. First, young Black, White, Hispanic, etc. people who saunter across streets in neighborhoods like the CD aren't doing it for any other reason than to say, "F' you, my life sucks. You have a car and I don't!" They don't discriminate, trust me.

This speaks to my second point, over analyzing "gentrification". All kinds of people enjoy things like new parks, coffee shops, and even Trader Joes. The problem occurs when the affordable housing disappears, not when white people move into a neighborhood.

Again, good article but long. The length and some of the content suggest you have too much time on your hands to think about this kind of stuff. But then, you are an academic and that's what they do - think about this kind of stuff.
Posted by djad206 on September 2, 2011 at 7:35 AM · Report this
166
I am not sure how I feel about this article at all. I realize change begins with recognition and discussion. My experience of Seattle, however, as an East coaster who moved there at the age of 30, was that things get talked to death and even when specific actions have been called for, demanded, even voted on - NOTHING WOULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN. (Hello, Monorail anyone?). It seems to me that Seattle should be way beyond "let's start a conversation about our racism problem" in the year 2011.

Moving to Seattle from Brooklyn, NY I was astonished at how white and segregated Seattle was (is) and more astonished that a place that considers itself a city, and a progressive city at that, is so incredibly provincial and in many ways in serious denial about just how provincial it is. And I say all this as someone who loves Seattle. I don't find the two things contradictory. There are things I love about Seattle and things I find downright distasteful. I believe Seattle could be better if it changed in certain ways. ..."Niceness" and "politeness" and "passive-aggressiveness" prevent change. You can't change something you refuse to publicly acknowledge and discuss OUT LOUD. The fact that white students who didn't get into Ballard High cried reverse racism and WON in the city of Seattle speaks volumes to how far from understanding racism and the reality of the racial divide in privilege is.
Posted by xina on September 2, 2011 at 6:42 AM · Report this
165
@162 -- Yeah, agreed. This article offers a bunch of statistics but fails to analyze them, then concludes, "all white people are racist".
Posted by Amanda on September 2, 2011 at 1:00 AM · Report this
KittenKoder 164
@163 Sorry, no sympathy from me. FYI, "white" is a color to, the old "people of color" was a derogatory label created by racists, so using it only demonstrates a racist mentality. Key here, racism doesn't mean what many people think it does. Back to the no sympathy angle though, my life has been hell, for being different, and guess who treats me like shit the most for being different .... yep, darker skinned folks. So really, if you want equality, you have to give it first. I don't treat anyone different based on how they look, dress, act ... or how dark their skin is .... so to treat me different they are proving themselves to be worse people than me. My life has not been easy either, I live in low income housing now, was homeless for almost a decade, had to steal to survive, been in jail for it even, but even after all that, I am now a law abiding citizen, I found an alternate route, the same route afforded to all regardless of "race". So if you want sympathy, talk to the rich darker skinned folks, ask them how they succeeded instead of whining about your failures.

Racism does exist, but the bigotry is on all sides, and in order to stop one, the others have to stop to, it all has to stop at once or it will never end.
Posted by KittenKoder http://digitalnoisegraffiti.com/ on September 2, 2011 at 12:57 AM · Report this
163
This entire article is a demonstration of its title, and won't do a thing toward ending racism in Seattle. How about stories about the bull&$@# people of color put up with every day, in their every day lives, at their jobs, in their neighborhoods, in their kids' schools, every time they go out to a concert or restaurant. Those stories would do more than make a white person cringe, they make my stomach hurt.

If white people knew the truth about what people of color put up with everyday, here and now, maybe then we'd all be outraged enough to do something about it, to look at and for all the ways we're perpetuating the inequity, poverty, disrespect and abuse, and allowing it to happen right under our well-intentioned noses.
Posted by SECS on September 2, 2011 at 12:41 AM · Report this
162
One more thing, if you want to start a conversation with white people about race, it’s best not to use “white” as a pejorative. It’s never a good way to start a conversation by insulting the other side. As an (Canadian) educated white person I understand that there has been 300+ years of systematic racism in the USA, and that it was only 50 years since the civil rights movement and the affects of segregation are still lingering. And it doesn’t even take an education to see that white starlets get slap on the wrists for drinking and driving/drug possessions, while black rappers are doing serious jail time for the same crimes. Also anyone who’s read anything about the drug war knows the racism that was behind both it and the mandatory sentences (i.e. powder cocaine having a lower mandatory sentence then crack cocaine). But hearing “white” being used a pejorative just makes me cringe. I can’t do anything about the skin colour I was born with any more than a black/asian/brown person can, so please stop using my skin colour as a negative. It’s insulting. Instead of talking about how easy the white-man’s had it, why not talk about why the other side’s had it hard and what the causes are (Yes I know many of the causes are from policies created by white-men, but talking about the policies/history is something much more tangible and is a better way to start the conversation then attacking everyone born with a certain skin colour).
Posted by j2patter on September 1, 2011 at 11:39 PM · Report this
161
“White people in Seattle are more likely to own rather than rent. White people are more likely to have health insurance and a job. White people are more likely to live longer. White people are less likely to be homeless. White people are less likely to hit the poverty level. White people are less likely to be in jail. White kids are nine times less likely than African Americans to be suspended from elementary school (in high school, it's four times higher; in middle school, it's five times, according to the district's data). Nonwhite high-school graduation rates in Seattle are significantly below white graduation rates—even if you're Asian, regardless of income level.”

You’re repeating yourself Jen. If someone is more likely to be to have a job then they’re less likely to be homeless and less likely to be to be below the poverty line. They’re also more likely to have health insurance. It’s the last point that is interesting. Instead of repeating how badly someone has it if they don’t have a job, why not explore why Nonwhite high-school graduation rates are significantly lower than white graduation rates? This is probably one of the root causes why white people are more likely to have a job and the benefits that go with it. If you do write another piece, please more substance.

Also in your summary of how white Seattle is, you’re over looking an important fact. Seattle imports a lot of people from different countries for its high paying jobs. Most of these people come from countries that don’t have a big black population, so they’re most likely to be non-black. It’s normal that these people who aren’t American’s would want to try to live in the safest neighborhoods (your crazy Americans are scary with your guns!) which tend to be populated with similar people in similar income brackets.

Finally, an interesting flip side of the “white people are the cause of all evil” article you wrote, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/arch…
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Posted by j2patter on September 1, 2011 at 11:15 PM · Report this
160
@brunomars

Go walk down MLK at midnight, Jen. See what happens.

What will happen?

Would it be the same thing that would happen if a black person walked through Broadmoor at midnight? Or Medina?
Posted by Louisep on September 1, 2011 at 11:06 PM · Report this
159
@TheCHZA

'African-American' is a term that African-Americans use as a way to reclaim our history and our past, and how we got to this continent in the first place. I think some people are uncomfortable with the term, because it reminds them that slavery DID exist, and that millions of Africans were uprooted from their homes in order to be brought here and treated as property.

Yes, there is a difference between 1st/2nd/3rd generations Africans who have recently moved to America and 40th generation Africans who came as slaves. But a 1st/2nd/3rd gen African would obviously know their origin, and wouldn't even use that term, they would instead say that they're Ghanaian, Ethiopian, etc. We use African-American as a blanket term, and as a painful reminder that our history was erased. We're reclaiming it.

I always think it's interesting when people say, "You shouldn't call yourself African-American, because you didn't come from Africa." And to that I say, "Oh, really, so where did I come from? Italy? France? Japan?" And they say, "No, you're just black." What does that mean? Just "black?" That's like you're insinuating I'm a person with no origin, that just appeared out of thin air, with no history, no culture, no accomplishments. I feel like that's a blatant attempt at whitewashing history.
Posted by AshFash on September 1, 2011 at 11:01 PM · Report this
158
@TheCHZA

'African-American' is a term that African-Americans use as a way to reclaim our history and our past, and how we got to this continent in the first place. I think some people are uncomfortable with the term, because it reminds them that slavery DID exist, and that millions of Africans were uprooted from their homes in order to be brought here and treated as property.

Yes, there is a difference between 1st/2nd/3rd generations Africans who have recently moved to America and 40th generation Africans who came as slaves. But a 1st/2nd/3rd gen African would obviously know their origin, and wouldn't even use that term, they would instead say that they're Ghanaian, Ethiopian, etc. We use African-American as a blanket term, and as a painful reminder that our history was erased. We're reclaiming it.

I always think it's interesting when people say, "You shouldn't call yourself African-American, because you didn't come from Africa." And to that I say, "Oh, really, so where did I come from? Italy? France? Japan?" And they say, "No, you're just black." What does that mean? Just "black?" That's like you're insinuating I'm a person with no origin, that just appeared out of thin air. NO, I'm reclaiming my past, and if it makes you uncomfortable, that's not my problem.
Posted by AshFash on September 1, 2011 at 10:58 PM · Report this
157
@TheCHZA

'African-American' is a term that African-Americans use as a way to reclaim our history and our past, and how we got to this continent in the first place. I think some people are uncomfortable with the term, because it reminds them that slavery DID exist, and that millions of Africans were uprooted from their homes in order to be brought here and treated as property.

Yes, there is a difference between 1st/2nd/3rd generations Africans who have recently moved to America and 40th generation Africans who came as slaves. But a 1st/2nd/3rd gen African would obviously know their origin, and wouldn't even use that term, they would instead say that they're Ghanaian, Ethiopian, etc. We use African-American as a blanket term, and as a painful reminder that our history was erased. We're reclaiming it.

I always think it's interesting when people say, "You shouldn't call yourself African-American, because you didn't come from Africa." And to that I say, "Oh, really, so where did I come from? Italy? France? Japan?" And they say, "No, you're just black." What does that mean? Just "black?" That's like you're insinuating I'm a person with no origin, that just appeared out of thin air. NO, I'm reclaiming my past, and if it makes you uncomfortable, that's not my problem.
Posted by AshFash on September 1, 2011 at 10:54 PM · Report this
artistar 156
The Bush School? THE BUSH SCHOOL?!?! Can someone please enlighten me to why the Bush school was quoted in this article? It costs $25,000 A YEAR to send an elementary kid to that school. As you can imagine, it's a pretty white school. I've been to the school. It's lily white. I saw a few Asians there. That's it. I met Eddie, the dude is really nice. But he was the one and only black person that I saw during my visit.

I just don't get why anyone would quote the Bush school in this article (and a quote that is talking about diversity). Blows my mind.
Posted by artistar on September 1, 2011 at 10:39 PM · Report this
aardvark 155
jen, please keep the race thing going on slog. the context of art is perfect of course, no matter how loose. we dont talk race enough on here, only subtext or socioeconmic (which i think is better placed).

its art and culture because of its tentativeness. they dont have quite the same conversation in europe or south africa or any fucking country. shades eh?

this is old so maybe noone is reading but damnit.. more on race here. the internet is the perfect place to let it out and this is a great spot for the letting out.

more more more!
Posted by aardvark on September 1, 2011 at 10:16 PM · Report this
154
I reeeeeeally like this article. As a white girl growing up in Snohomish, I remember thinking racism was totally over and that affirmative action was the stupidest thing ever. Why did minorities deserve more of a chance at a job or school than I did? Of course, my high school had roughly "two and a half black people" (as I remember my half-black classmate joking), and was in a small, fairly conservative town. That changed a tiny bit when I went to UW, just because I at least met a few more people of color. But still, race was NOT an issue that I ever heard discussed, especially by white people. After graduation, I moved to Harlem to teach in the South Bronx, and I suddenly became very aware of my whiteness, and I started thinking about race in a much deeper way than I had ever really considered. Even New York is almost comically segregated- I don't remember seeing an Asian person during my first few months of living here until I went to Chinatown to satisfy a craving for pho, and after 3 years in various classrooms, I have never taught a white student. So I think discussions like this are a good way to open a few eyes. Seattleites tend to be passive agressive on almost everything; it shouldn't be surprising to think some racial tension is boiling under the surface of this "progressive" city.
Posted by mellythepirate on September 1, 2011 at 8:45 PM · Report this
Matthew 'Anc' Johnson 152
Do I think White Privilege exists?
Most definitely.
Have I benefited from it?
Surely.
Have I done anything to further this?
Not to my knowledge.

So why should I sit around feeling guilty and/or apologize for something I had no control over?

Do NBA players have group therapy sessions where they sit around, navel gaze and discuss the privilege of being born tall and naturally athletic?

I'm not going to lose any sleep over things I have no control over. Instead I'll focus on what I DO have control over, my own thoughts and actions and doing what I can to reduce/remove the institutional racism in our system.
Posted by Matthew 'Anc' Johnson on September 1, 2011 at 8:00 PM · Report this
151
I'm a culturist, not a racist. In the Seattle metro area "race" is self designated and there is no basic cultural difference between white trash culture and black trash culture.

White people don't make excuses for white trash. People who self-designate as African-Americans will not join the main stream until they stop making excuses for black trash.
Posted by billwald on September 1, 2011 at 7:34 PM · Report this
150
First, i commend the good intentions of the writer. Like many self described liberals and progressives, she seems to be honestly and eanrestly stuggling with our American obsession:race. I am one of the people she champions, and it's interesting to me that the inherent assumption is that i need championing.Again, i applaud her innate sense of justice and fairplay, however i think it's somewhat misguided. While i agree that America was founded for the benefit of Western Europeans, and for the vast majority of it's existence, continues to be a place designed for such benefit, i believe so strongly in equal opportunity and meritocracy, that it is enough for me that we cling to what James Brown said:(I paraphrase) "You don't have to open any door for me, you don't have to even lead me to the door, just let me know what direction.." in other words, i agree with her historical and cultural critique, but i disagree with what seems to be her solution: Non-white people suffer from a lack of equal opportunity, but many of my friends also suffer from self-discipline and proper organization, long range planning, and understanding the immediate sacrifices needed to eventually lead a middle-class existence. I am much more interested, as Barry Gordy said, in learning how to fish than well intentioned libs and progs giving out free fish. What i hope is that we continue our slow, but perceptible, movement toward an equal opportunity society. For me, that is enough. Let our discussion and efforts focus on providing quality public education, color blind assistance to the socially/economically disadvantaged(which will be heavily minority focused, anyway)..and make sure all these programs focus on self-reliance, learning self discipline, and personal accountability...thus, all the well meaning anti-racist sentiments of this article will bear fruit.
More...
Posted by Popeye100 on September 1, 2011 at 7:30 PM · Report this
brunomars 149
It is absolutely sickening the way the Stranger's writers will push this garbage on the Jon Stuart Leibowitz-educated readers. Go walk down MLK at midnight, Jen. See what happens.
Posted by brunomars on September 1, 2011 at 7:28 PM · Report this
148
@Andrew S.

Thanks. Yes, I remember that. I'll look it up.
Posted by Louisep on September 1, 2011 at 7:09 PM · Report this
147
You mentioned a cop punched a black girl in the face but neglected he was defending himself after the black girl and her friend continued to assault him. His only other options were use pepper spray or a stun gun. Having seen both used, the girl got the most gentle of the 3 options. And it was 100% legitimate use of force. If racism was really that bad in Seattle why are you forced to use such invalid examples? How about using the example of the 7 white kids who stomped an elderly black man to death and only got a slap on the wrist? Isn't that an example of racist? Oh, that's right, it was 7 black kids, an elderly white man, so talking about this injustice and how it pertains to race is of no interest to you
Posted by janeV on September 1, 2011 at 5:17 PM · Report this
146
Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Race??
http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new_yo…
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/0…
Posted by Andrew S. on September 1, 2011 at 4:14 PM · Report this
145
Crown Heights NY 1992. Look up Yankel Rosenbaum, Lemrick Nelson, Al Sharpton

The Amsterdam News complained that everyone who was arrested was black, despite blacks being the ones murdering, assaulting, and robbing.
Anna Deavere Smith, a black woman, wrote "Fires in the Mirror" about this incident. She brings up slavery and every little slight blacks in the neighborhood felt they'd ever had but convienantly omits that 2 people were murdered in hate crimes by black people, 50 (including children) were assaulted in hate crimes by black people, and that this crowd (which she claims acted out of anguish over a child dying in a car accident committed over 250 robberies (facinating way to mourn, eh?). She also omitts that black on jewish violent crime was already epidemic (still is in this neighborhood) and that this group (young black males) she claims were soooo anguished over the death of a child were responsible for close to 100% of all homicide in that area.
New York Magazine was the one that went there 2 years later and found the black residents were mostly apologists for the lynch mob (this article is avialable on their online archieve).
It was the NYT which purposely skewed coverage of this. Read Ari Goldman's Telling it Like it Wasn't (can be found online).
And NYT's only article about the 20th anniversary of this hate crime was about a art exhibit in which black artists depicted this Black on Jewish hate crime in a way that was mostly sympathetic to themselves. The NYT lavished praise on the exhibit, calling it "healing" (when were people ever so concerned about the healing of white folks when whites committ hate crimes?). Only one Jewish artist (out of 25). There was no outreach to those who had actually been victimized by this hate crime.
Look for "Crown Heights Gold" in the NYT art section. Ask yourselves what the reaction would be if white artists put on exhibit about Jasper TX in a way that made the whites who did it look like the victim. I don't think the NYT would be all the sympathetic. And the general public would be disgusted.

More...
Posted by Andrew S. on September 1, 2011 at 4:10 PM · Report this
144
@143

Holy sh*t. Where did this happen? I'd like to learn more.
Posted by Louisep on September 1, 2011 at 3:36 PM · Report this
143
Where I grew up a black man (who had a year earlier saved a white child in a fire) lost control of his car and accidentally hit 2 white kids who were playing. Whites saw the driver was black and immediately pulled him out of his car and badly beating him. The police saw they could not control the crowd who was trying to lynch him and they instructed the first ambulance that came to take the man away for his own safety while they waited for the 2nd for the white children (which came less than half a minute later). A rumor started that the white children were left to die because the black man was getting preferrential treatment. White racists worked the crowd into a hoopla. Over 250 whites came from all over to attack blacks and destroy their property. 2 hours after this accident a white lynch mob (about 15 people) stabbed a black guy to death while screaming racial slurs. They attaked a black man walking home with his child knocking the man unconcious and they continued to attack the child while police stood only 10 feet away. The police were instructed not to interfer when blacks were attacked to avoid further angering white people.
Later a white jury acquitted the lynch mob despite the fact they admitted doing it and took the perpetrators out for drinks, hailing them as "heros". Several jurors refused to follow the judges instructions and did their own independent "reserach"- but they were not charged. The white man who stabbed the black man had a long history of unprovoked violent crime and said he had murdered just because he was "drunk and caught up in the excitment" but white folks framed it as him acting nobley out of protection for white children.
2 years after this happened a white reporter went into this neighborhood and asked white residents their feelings about this event. Most were remorseless and without compassion. When the reporter mentioned the black man who was murdered by the mob one young white woman sneered "they're STILL bitching about THAT?"
A reporter who covered the event recently stated that the editors (who were not present) demanded it be referred to it as a "clash" and "tensions" between blacks and whites despite him witnessing it as a one way street, and they changed the story to cite examples of blacks attacking whites and cops even though it didn't happen. They also omitted all the racial slurs and calls to kill all black people that the white crowd was chanting.
One paper complained that it was racist that no blacks had been arrested by the police- despite the fact that all of the murder, assaults, robberies, and looting were being committed by whites towards blacks.
To this day whites will excuse this lynching by stating that a white child was killed in a car accident by a black driver who was protected from the community (in reality a predominately white grand jury found him innocent of any wrong doing). They will claim he was drunk (proven untrue), that he fled to Jamaica to avoid punishment (he was aquitted by a grand jury but has avoid the US because of the large amount of death threats against him). When blacks mention the black man who was lynched whites will call them racist for valuing the life of the black man and the black folks who were assaulted more then the white child killed in a car accident. They will say the car accident and the lynching are no different.
Later a white woman wrote a highly acclaimed book in which she describes this event in a way that is symapthetic to the white lynch mob and focuses on their "feelings" with little regard for facts. This is the book used in schools to educate people about this incident. She doesn't mention 2 innocent black men were murdered in hate crimes. That over 50 people (inlcuding children) were assaulted, or that the mob (who she claimed were acting out of mourning over the child killed in a car accident) committed over 250 robberies. She also doesn't mention that in this neighborhood white on black violent crime was a daily occurance, and that the group who did this (young white men) were respoinsible for almost all unprovoked violent crime in this neighborhood and surrounding areas.
Recently a white reporter for the NYT referred to this incident as simply "white people rioted because a white child was killed in a car accident" and didn't even mention that whites had killed, assault, and robbed hundreds of innocent black people. The NYT recently did an article about an art exhibit about this event. 25 artists participated, only one was black. There was no outreach to black artists. It mainly focuses on the white child killed in the car accident and focused on what frustrations whites had that made them lash out with violence. It explained what society needed to do to placate whites so they wouldn't have to react this way. The article labeled the exhibit "healing".
What do you think about this Jen, honestly?
Do you feel the same way if I told that everything in my story is true except the "whites" were black? And the "blacks" were "Jews"? Still outraged?
The Crown Heights pogrom was the worst hate crime against Jews in US history but it (like the hate crimes against Asians by blacks on both coasts) is referred to as a "dispute between communities" for only ONE reason- the perpetratos were black.
WHO is really entitled here? Ask Yankel Rosenbaum's family about "white priveledge".
More...
Posted by Andrew S. on September 1, 2011 at 3:25 PM · Report this
141
@140: I think the strong social conservatism of the African American community is something that liberals prefer not to think about. One of the reasons Prop 8 was so shocking to a lot of people is that it forced them to confront that head on.

Being in a minority doesn't necessarily make people sympathetic to the plights of other minorities; in fact it often makes them want to pull up the ladder once they've climbed it. The negative attitude that many homosexuals have toward transgendered people is another example.
Posted by Orv on September 1, 2011 at 3:13 PM · Report this
140
The worst hate speech I've ever heard in Seattle against gays was from African Americans.
The worst hate speech I've ever heard in Seattle against women was from African Americans.
The worst hate speech I've ever heard in Seattle against Jews was from African Americans.
The worst hate speech I've ever heard in Seattle against Asians was from African Americans.
In Seattle I've heard black folks openly (and in public) say things about white folks 10000x worse than anything I've ever heard whites say in public OR private about blacks.
Yeah, I can't take your side Jen.
Posted by Andrew S. on September 1, 2011 at 2:33 PM · Report this
139
As a successful black man, I find this to be incredibly condescending.

As if I can only succeed if white people would be nice enough to fine-tune their feelings. Or that you have the power to "keep me down" with nothing more than a bad attitude.

Many of us in the black community are doing really well, and we'll take the credit for that, thank you. And we'd also like to take responsibility for our shortcomings.

Sometimes I think folks like Jen need to keep thinking of us as victims for some self-serving purpose. Like we represent some spiritual self-improvement opportunity for them or something.

Anyway, whatever you do with your guilt, stop projecting it on to us.

In fact, please just leave us alone.
Posted by Pelosi Facelift on September 1, 2011 at 1:41 PM · Report this
138
@137

Talking race with white people is an uphill battle either way

You got that right.
Posted by Louisep on September 1, 2011 at 1:39 PM · Report this
137
@103 - Right on.

Jen, you realize that the term "racism" is pretty loaded. Is it so hard to tell white people that they are the *beneficiaries* of institutional racism and white privilege and that by not doing anything to challenge it, they are, in their own small way, contributing to it? I just said it in one sentence and it seems to ring a little truer to me than saying "you are all racists". Also, it doesn't make people so defensive. You want people to hear you, yeah?

Talking race with white people is an uphill battle either way, but it seems like it is needlessly antagonistic to negatively label well meaning (and to differing degrees, oblivious) white folks. It seems more like a form of hazing to me -- "I was told I was a racist and I didn't get it, but now I do, and now I'm going to tell you you're a racist too, until you admit it". It could be more about compassion and caring for the people around us than simply rubbing shit in people's faces.

Lastly, it seems like equating honking at people in the street with asserting privilege is a huge reach -- seems to me like when white people get their eyes opened to racism they sometimes start seeing things that aren't really there, such as this. ANYONE of ANY RACE loping through the street when there's a car behind them waiting to get by should be (and hopefully will be) honked at. It's stupid. That's what a car horn is for, to get people's attention when they are doing something stupid! Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.

Despite these small objections, I'm glad you wrote this article, clearly it's got a lot of people talking and thinking about race and that's a good thing.
Posted by Chris Pollina http://www.eldridgegravy.com on September 1, 2011 at 1:36 PM · Report this
136
As long as white people can look at a gathering of white people and think it's diverse, we have a problem in this country that we need to address. It may not be racism; I think it's simply lack of experience and understanding.

After being married to an African-American man for nine years, and being around his family, I have had many life-changing and attitude-changing experiences.

Any white person who wants a different perspective on race issues can try something like this:

I was the only white guest at my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary celebration. It was in southern Virginia, where they live and where my husband is from. I was the only white person among a gathering of African-Americans. I was dressed wrong. I was among African Americans who remember getting off the sidewalk for white people, who remember hearing white people call their parents "aunt" and "uncle" when they had to say "Mr." and "Mrs," who remember "whites only" waiting rooms, lunch counters, hotels, restaurants, drinking fountains, you name it.

For one overwhelmingly relieved moment, I thought there was another white person there. Then I realized she wasn't! She was African American, but so light-complected I didn't notice.

Then I did realize that there were other white people in the room.

They were servers.

I was a guest.

But I'm white.

The other guests were African American.

I had the most astonishingly, profoundly, visceral and gut-level experience of being a minority with divided loyalties.

If any of the white people here ever have an experience like that, I'll bet you anything you like you'll change your mind about what you're posting here.

Meanwhile, there are some good ways to introduce yourself to the issues.

Read books -- you can't offend them like people could be offended. "Member of the Club," by Lawrence Otis Graham. "The Sweeter the Juice," by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip. "Slaves in the Family," by Edward Ball.

See movies. "Jungle Fever," by Spike Lee.

I'm sure there are equivalent books and movies for other communities, like Latinos, Asians, Native Americans. Anyone have any suggestions?
More...
Posted by Louisep on September 1, 2011 at 1:36 PM · Report this
135
@133: It's an interesting question. People tend to think of Asians as never having suffered from racial discrimination, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries there was substantial prejudice against them. Seattle and Tacoma at one point both tried to evict their Asian populations en masse; Tacoma was slightly more successful at it.

I suspect, on some level, people are just subconsciously more comfortable with Asian people because they look "more white." For similar reasons we've largely forgotten the white-on-white racism that used to exist against the Irish and Italians.
Posted by Orv on September 1, 2011 at 1:21 PM · Report this
134
@18:
So because you may be judged honestly for your privilege, you'd rather not consider the fact that you COULD be acting out of privilege and just stick your head in the sand?

I'm not denying that I'm privileged. I'm not denying that, if people judge me based on that, they're correct. But inserting myself into a situation where I'll be judged for it is basically sticking my nose in where it's not wanted. The polite thing to do seems to be to just avoid situations where, as a white person, my presence will be unwanted and make people uncomfortable.

I've known African-Americans who said they felt alone and uncomfortable because they didn't act "black enough" to suit other people in their community. As basically the whitest person in the universe and a child of white privilege I have no hope of ever being accepted socially by people like that.
Posted by Orv on September 1, 2011 at 1:13 PM · Report this
133
There are almost twice as many Asians as African Americans in Seattle. There are almost as many Asians as African Americans and Latinos combined. So why are Asians all-but absent from this article? The reader is left to wonder.
Posted by Robert Abrahamsen on September 1, 2011 at 12:43 PM · Report this
132
Great article, Jen. I appreciate the diversity of voices you included.
One correction--WEACT (the Work of European Americans as Cultural Teachers) is a group of White educators who meet monthly to learn together and discuss our cross-cultural interactions in educational settings from pre-k through college. Although some of us do presentations for schools, most of us are involved in the practice of teaching for social justice in our own classrooms. Thanks for coming to our meeting and sharing your perspectives.
Posted by Ilsa on September 1, 2011 at 12:08 PM · Report this
131
The blackest people are at the equator, the whitest at the north pole. Vitamin D processing.

White people living in Seattle are getting blacker day by day and black people living in Seattle are getting whiter day by day.

Husksters want to make money out of the process.
Posted by jd2 on September 1, 2011 at 11:25 AM · Report this
130
CARW is a waste of time for people. Wrong approach. You can do more with a smile than CARW can do with $1,000,000
Posted by jd2 on September 1, 2011 at 11:20 AM · Report this
128
Interesting Article.

In general I agree with you that there is work needed to be done to allow all people the
equal benefits of living in a free country regardless of their racial background.

You have taken the left fork in the path to knowledge and understanding. I believe that
leads you to your great errors that you have honestly presented in your article.

1. Any one who touches social justice content should study its history and it's
realtionship to Marxism and dialectical materialism. The only difference is that class has
been replaced by race. A knowledgable person should be honest with themselves and examine what type of process they are accepting with social justice. If they are a teacher this should be part of their discussion. Transparency.

2. Social justice absent the marxism is a fine goal. Merit, Mentorship, Jobs, and Family
should be the cornerstones of a healthy social justice effort. Not the biased failed effort
that has been documented in the Seattle School system or the City of Seattle.

3. Any person may partipate in a mosque, church, or synagogue and they will find the
converstation lifted up way past the concepts of white and black. A person severely limits
themselves in life if the critical component of their thinking is white vs black. Drugs the
destroyer of black families will have less impact. Job connections will be stonger.

4. I moved to Seattle because it was a racially tolerant city 30 years ago. It still is
today excepting the personalities that force themselves to make it into a problem. I can
walk around most any part of the city in an interracial relationship and feel comfortable
except some of the poorer areas. Poverty of spirit or income not race holds onto and
develops ignorance which breeds hate. Seattle stands above most any city in the world as a tolerant city. If a few warts color your whole thinking process, then the warts aren't the
problem.

5. The problem of youth is that once they realize they are at fault they feel the extreme
need to revolutionize everyone else but themselves. An immature ego. That is where the
guilt should lie in both black and white.

6. The legal system does overly enforce against victimless crimes in poor areas versus rich areas. The mayor should recognize that or he is not listening to social justice. The legal system does over felonize and over fine poor people on a regular basis. The wallets of the mayor and councilmen are fattened on the backs of the poor. They just see a rule, a fine, and not a circumstance that needs to be managed. The punishment money is more important to them.

7. The deep problem on the left is their need to get into a polarity about guilt and
victims. They need victims. That is how they survive. The less black people talk to a lefty
they healthier they will be. Note how the left has had to redefince and broaden the
definitions of racism as a form of victim creep.
More...
Posted by jd2 on September 1, 2011 at 11:14 AM · Report this
127
Both my husband and I were blessed with an extraordinary mental capacity and an embarrassingly high I.Q. After much debate and vehement protests from our extended families we have decided to make an effort to stymie the inevitable white priviledge of our two beautiful children. Through trial and error we have sought to encourage the gradual development of various superficial learning disabilities with moderate success. Observe our progress, join the conversation and celebrate our brave contribution to a more just and equal society at our blog: blakeandpaige@blogspot.com
Posted by porchedge on September 1, 2011 at 11:11 AM · Report this
brunomars 124


What is "white privilege"? It is the privilege of allowing tens of millions of non whites to flood your homeland and allow them to whine and complain endlessly.

It is the privilege to have large portions of your tax money go towards providing free primary schooling, free college, free healthcare, free housing,free food and even free money for foreigners and other non whites.

It is the privilege of often being targeted by these other groups for rape and other violent crimes. It is the privilege of having your own children brainwashed by the schools funded by your tax dollars, and told your people are evil, and they should be ashamed of themselves and their ancestors. It is the privilege to be systematically pushed down by marxist affirmative action laws, in an attempt to level the playing field.

It is the privilege of becoming a minority in the lands founded and bult by your ancestors. It is the privilege of being told how you must remain silent and watch your own genocide, because to do otherwise would mean you are a racist, and society has told us a racist is the worst kind of person, worse than even a rapist or thief.
Posted by brunomars on September 1, 2011 at 11:06 AM · Report this
123
Wow. The comments here are...interesting. I'm just going to say a few things: Jen, this article is fucking amazing. All my friends on Facebook are talking about it and applauding you. I appreciate your bravery and willingness to tackle the hard issues that are, clearly, not quite acceptable in the mainstream yet.

Secondly, as an active member of CARW, I can assure all of you that the meetings are not about "handwringing". We do self-education around the history of racism in Seattle, Secure Communities and their effects on immigrants, how to discuss race with coworkers, etc. The second part of the meeting is where we meet in 5 separate groups which are called "ally groups"--we are allied with people of color-led organizations. We provide them support through organizing, doing childcare at their meetings, moderating email lists, etc. We raised $10,000 for the Duwamish Tribe's legal fund in 2010....I wouldn't call that "handwringing", would you?

Thirdly, @108: you honestly think that helping out homeless folks of color does more good than ending the systems that made them homeless in the first place? right.
Posted by analemma on September 1, 2011 at 10:47 AM · Report this
122
White people in Seattle are also more likely to live in white neighborhoods while sporting "Celebrate Diversity" bumper stickers on their cars. Hypocrites. Go live in White Center or SeaTac if you believe that shit.

Then, after living there for a few years, tell me if you want your Police Department to concentrate on "social justice," whatever that is, or on protecting your sorry ass from getting shot.

You haven't established causality, Jen. You haven't proven any cause and effect relationship between quality of life data for minorities you quote, and racism. So, fail.

Stick to teaching art. Keep your repulsive convulsions of white guilt to yourself.
Posted by Question Diversity on September 1, 2011 at 10:17 AM · Report this
Godzilla1916 120
"Who here is a Racist?"

When I first read that I knew I would have raised my white-Irish hand; is it because I sometimes curse using the n-word, or is it that I grew up with the privileges of whiteness?

According to your article Jen, it is the direct benefits of my whiteness that make me a racist, and like a previous commenter wrote: "it's a message that makes me want to throw up my hands in despair." However; I am not one to give in so easily.

I’m willing to confront this question, and I applaud your article in bringing up this discussion which was well below my radar.

Where am I racist in my daily life? I live on the southern coast of Oregon (Seattle transplant) and if you think Seattle is white, try rural Oregon. When I see a person of color on the streets here I am immediately aware of their minority status; when I meet people other than white, I am immediately awkward and aware of their non-white identity; what do I say? How do I act around them? I ask myself.

I am open to your suggestion that whites need to follow the lead of non-whites when it comes to racial equality and justice; as long as we are committed to progress and honesty; one caveat is that I am not interested in disempowering my self with racial guilt. I’m willing to take responsibility for the privileges of my white status, and willing to also work to extend those same privileges to all citizens; but how to do it while remaining secure and proud of my own Irish/Catholic heritage and upbringing?

An interesting note is that I work for one of the local Indian Tribes here in Oregon, and I have sat in on councils surrounded by Native Americans, here too I have felt my whiteness as an awkward cloak, with no hook to hang it on; it is what it is and we all should know how that feels; but, what to do with that? I think your article offers a great first discussion on how to bring this out into the opening, how to talk, listen and discuss it so that awkwardness can be cleaned away and justice be served.

Art seems a perfect and unique vehicle to conjoin people to this discussion.

More...
Posted by Godzilla1916 on September 1, 2011 at 9:56 AM · Report this
A Magnolia Heron 119
Interesting article, but not a lot of it makes any sense to me. The examples you provide, like honking at people in the road who HAPPEN to also be black, are evicence of racism? How exactly? Sounds like they just need to get out of the road, because its a ROAD! I would entertain this as an example if a white person walked out in the road and the car stopped and waved them through and, just after, a black person walked into the road and the driver starts honking. However, I doubt this is the case. You can discuss gentrification and white people moving to places they "just dont belong", but these are really arguments of socio-economic status and the inequality there. This, of course, is certainly tied to race and race cannot be ignored, but if you are simply talking about honking at someone in the middle of the road, give me a break.

It seems to me this is a kind of over-analysis that, ironically, is afforded by the extra time we white people have (a result of the extra money/privilege afforded to us) to sit around on a Saturday and pick apart all the possible ways our actions COULD be interpreted as racist. Notice I didnt say SHOULD. This, in my opinion, is almost as insulting to the whole issue of racism as actually being racist. It seems to me a whole lot more could be done if the attitude was "yep, there is still racism, what are you going to DO about it" rather than sitting around, over-analyzing the fuck out of it all and accomplishing nothing outside your group of privileged white friends. Its not about you feeling better about your racism, its about doing something to change it in the place you live. Just being aware isnt good enough anymore.
Posted by A Magnolia Heron on September 1, 2011 at 9:42 AM · Report this
117
Thank you Jen for writing this article, and The Stranger for publishing it. It takes some guts for white people to talk about racism and the roles we play in it. But that role does not have to be paralysis.

The fourth annual CARW Organizing Institute begins in October. Its a chance to gain some understanding of racism and white privilege, some skills for talking about racism and organizing against it. Click here for more details: http://carw.org
Posted by Tangster on September 1, 2011 at 9:10 AM · Report this
macavitykitsune 116
@28:

Mutts? Excuse the fuck out of me for not being terribly pleased with being equated to mongrels and that being the primary attraction someone would have towards me.

How the fuck did you manage to be racist at EVERYBODY all at once? Seriously, did you have to think real hard about the equal-opportunity asshattery you have going there?
Posted by macavitykitsune on September 1, 2011 at 9:05 AM · Report this
115
I am so excited that Jen wrote this article and The Stranger published it. It takes some guts for white people to talk about racism and admit our roles. But we don't need to be paralyzed by it.

If you are interested, CARW is holding its fourth annual Organizing Institute for white folks who want to learn more about racism as a system, and gain tools for talking about racism and organizing against racism (including in multi-racial settings).
Click here to learn more about our ORGANIZING INSTITUTE: http://carw.org
Posted by Tangster on September 1, 2011 at 8:59 AM · Report this
114
@111: You are correct in asserting that you can't hide your skin color the way you could conceal your sexual orientation. But, if you are referring to my comment @102 and the following comment @103; I am not trying to draw parallels between racism and homophobia. I am trying to point out that a thought does not equate to a crime. Having a racist thought, particularly an unconscious thought fueled by years of conditioning, does not necessarily make you a racist anymore than having daydreams about murdering your boss makes you a murderer, or having rape fantasies makes you a rapist.
Posted by Swanky Modes on September 1, 2011 at 8:42 AM · Report this
CharlesF 113
I called it. Callllled it: I KNEW that Charles Mudede could never write a headline as funny as this one.
Posted by CharlesF on September 1, 2011 at 8:37 AM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 112
@111 So, you're saying that gays should not hold hands n public , and otherwise avoid acting gay in public, in order to take full advantage of their privilege. But, blacks can not, or at least should not be asked to, avoid acting like ghetto stereotypes.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on September 1, 2011 at 8:30 AM · Report this
111
The comparisons between homophobia and racism are off in that it much more difficult to hide the color of one's skin in most social settings. I realize there are a variety of treatments to alter your skin color if you're really motivated, but that's not what I'm talking about. When I walk down the street most people are going to react to my sexual orientation much less than they are going to react to my skin color.
Posted by Beaulen on September 1, 2011 at 8:08 AM · Report this
110
1. Race is meaningless in terms of inherited characteristics. The pseudoscience of race we inherited from the nineteenth century is bogus beyond any doubt.

2. Race as currently understood is a social construction directly inherited from nineteenth-century understandings. They've been modified and added to and the splintery edges rubbed off, but the broad categories of white, Asian, black, indian, and spanish-speaking are now hard-wired into how this nation thinks. Just look at the census...

3. So, race has reality, but it is reality as enforced by broad human-created social structures. It has as much reality as the state of Washington or the United States of America: God and DNA did not create the 49th parallel. We did.

4. We want to take more responsibility for our social creations than we deserve. Social constructs like these can't be deconstructed simply through awareness, any more than psychic problems can be solved by realizing "Hey, I have an id!" It's not that awareness is bad, but reprogramming is not just a matter of consciousness.

5. If I as an individual want to help break down the walls I did not build, I need to play a funny game of tag with myself and the world around me. I will never probably feel super-comfortable with the kids in my neighborhood who have been beating people up for money and were out slashing the neighbors' tires the other day. What I can do is follow my love of singing to a gospel choir. I can slowly, by following opportunities I love, when they come up, erase Race from my personal life.

I think the way homophobia has been slowly erased from some of our lives is instructional. We didn't get there because of marches in the street, or sessions of the anti-homophobia committee. We got there because we have friends who are G, L, B, and/or T. We didn't seek them out because of their letter, we sought them out because we likes them. And then we learn of the crap they still have to deal with, and because we are their friends, we can stand with them clearly and honestly.

In a way, it's a trap to become aware of white privilege before you've begun your slow, meandering march. It makes you aware that you are doing things to fight racism/white privilege, and this sucks some of the joy out of what you are doing. On the other hand, maybe it can be like how I end up treating exercise in my life: I hate practice, whether it's physical or musical or anything. So I never "exercise." But I know I need to, so I find things I like to do, which involve exercise. But I enjoy them because they're dance or walking to work, or I do them because they're necessary like walking the dog or mowing the lawn. I then only then have to CHOOSE exercise when I figure out a habitual or scheduled pattern.

Can we do the same thing for racism? Fool ourselves into working past it? I think in the long run, it's the only way we're going to get to a truly post-racial society--a society that recognizes that your ancestors were African slaves, and yours emigrated from Somalia, and yours were Maya, and yours were Chinese peasants, and yours were Irish potato farmers, and yours were English Pilgrims... but where this identity is a matter for an annual parade and peculiar family foodways and customs, and for the great-uncle who's decided to really get into his heritage and goes to folk-dance camp and wears kind of funny ethnic clothing. And that's it. I long for that day.
More...
Posted by natcase on September 1, 2011 at 7:20 AM · Report this
109
1. Race is meaningless in terms of inherited characteristics. The pseudoscience of race we inherited from the nineteenth century is bogus beyond any doubt.

2. Race as currently understood is a social construction directly inherited from nineteenth-century understandings. They've been modified and added to and the splintery edges rubbed off, but the broad categories of white, Asian, black, indian, and spanish-speaking are now hard-wired into how this nation thinks. Just look at the census...

3. So, race has reality, but it is reality as enforced by broad human-created social structures. It has as much reality as the state of Washington or the United States of America: God and DNA did not create the 49th parallel. We did.

4. We want to take more responsibility for our social creations than we deserve. Social constructs like these can't be deconstructed simply through awareness, any more than psychic problems can be solved by realizing "Hey, I have an id!" It's not that awareness is bad, but reprogramming is not just a matter of consciousness.

5. If I as an individual want to help break down the walls I did not build, I need to play a funny game of tag with myself and the world around me. I will never probably feel super-comfortable with the kids in my neighborhood who have been beating people up for money and were out slashing the neighbors' tires the other day. What I can do is follow my love of singing to a gospel choir. I can slowly, by following opportunities I love, when they come up, erase Race from my personal life.

I think the way homophobia has been slowly erased from some of our lives is instructional. We didn't get there because of marches in the street, or sessions of the anti-homophobia committee. We got there because we have friends who are G, L, B, and/or T. We didn't seek them out because of their letter, we sought them out because we likes them. And then we learn of the crap they still have to deal with, and because we are their friends, we can stand with them clearly and honestly.

In a way, it's a trap to become aware of white privilege before you've begun your slow, meandering march. It makes you aware that you are doing things to fight racism/white privilege, and this sucks some of the joy out of what you are doing. On the other hand, maybe it can be like how I end up treating exercise in my life: I hate practice, whether it's physical or musical or anything. So I never "exercise." But I know I need to, so I find things I like to do, which involve exercise. But I enjoy them because they're dance or walking to work, or I do them because they're necessary like walking the dog or mowing the lawn. I then only then have to CHOOSE exercise when I figure out a habitual or scheduled pattern.

Can we do the same thing for racism? Fool ourselves into working past it? I think in the long run, it's the only way we're going to get to a truly post-racial society--a society that recognizes that your ancestors were African slaves, and yours emigrated from Somalia, and yours were Maya, and yours were Chinese peasants, and yours were Irish potato farmers, and yours were English Pilgrims... but where this identity is a matter for an annual parade and peculiar family foodways and customs, and for the great-uncle who's decided to really get into his heritage and goes to folk-dance camp and wears kind of funny ethnic clothing. And that's it. I long for that day.
More...
Posted by natcase on September 1, 2011 at 7:17 AM · Report this
108
You'd do more to help disadvantaged black people volunteering at a homeless shelter than you would attending one of those white shame meetings.
Posted by Amanda on September 1, 2011 at 12:48 AM · Report this
107
In as much as a person of color wouldn't enjoy having their racial identity co-opted to describe some undesirable trait, so white people may justly feel insulted by the use of the term "whiteness" in this context. Similarly so, in as much as a person of color (or, for that matter, a poor person) would see injustice in having their motives for, say, being on the sidewalk after dark questioned, so too can a white person see injustice (different, mind you, from simply being made to feel "uncomfortable") in being called a racist. Real progress will come when we can talk about (and more importantly DO THINGS TO SOLVE) these issues without needing to resort to co-opting *anyone's* identity as a pejorative. Insulting the minds you hope to change is a losing strategy.
Posted by pheeeew!crack!boom! on September 1, 2011 at 12:29 AM · Report this
105
@13 NO. YOU don't get to decide how a group chooses to self-identify. THEY do. Your white privilege is showing, and it doesn't look becoming.
Posted by Luther on August 31, 2011 at 10:47 PM · Report this
104
At first I was excited to read this; Jen is right, race relationships does not get talked about enough in a meaningful way. But then it turned out to be "Hey whitey, you're racist! Don't think you're racist, well you are!" It's too bad because there is a really good piece waiting to be writing about the 300 years of systematic racism in the United States and the effects it has caused (Note if you do not believe there isn’t a history of systematic racism in the United States, go and read some history books).

People here are right that a lot of the issues are class issues, but the systematic racism has caused a large amount of black people to be in the lower class. So you can’t just shrug this off as class issues, it’s both class issues and race issues. And it’s getting worse as the current political climate is to shrug off issues of the poor class as issues as of the lazy class. Why can’t you just pull yourself up by your boot straps, that is the American way after all. If you can’t make your way in this country, you just aren’t trying hard enough. This way of thinking completely ignores the issues facing the poor class and does nothing to help them escape poverty. So it’s easy to see how the middle class and upper class have an upper hand with the laissez faire environment in the usa today.

Many black people are living in poor conditions due to the systematic racism that has been a part of America since it was created. They see a country founded on slavery and whose hero’s were slave owners. They see a country that has treated them like second class citizens up until the 1960s, and in some ways continue to. They see the programs that could help them be slashed in the name of tax cuts, and they see the American dream fail them, if they ever even saw it as a dream in the first place.

Yes, white people in this country do not have to deal with this. It’s something we can ignore because it doesn’t affect us in our day to day life. Instead we worry about the things that do affect us, paying our bills, getting food on our tables. This isn’t racism, its human nature.

And this is where your piece falls flat Jen. Instead of examining what affects this systematic racism has on the black community, or what can be done to elevate the black community out of the poverty that it has created, it just focus on the fact that most white people don’t think much about it. Yeah most white people don’t, but now that you’re drawn their attention to it do more than just nag, show what can be done to help. And no, going to a class on the weekend to take about your white guilt doesn’t help, but voting for politicians who have policies to lift the poor out of poverty do. But that’s a much harder article to write, much harder to write then an article that turns out to be little more than “you think you’re racist, but you are” in a condescending tone.
More...
Posted by j2patter on August 31, 2011 at 9:39 PM · Report this
103
I'm gay, and I'd never call a hetero a homophobe just because they had a thought biased on homophobia. So long as they're all for legal equality and equal opportunities, straight privilege a homophobe does not make!

Your classroom approach might make a few people wake up to privilege in a university setting, but elsewhere you run the risks of building barriers. Try telling a laid-off white family in the Rust Belt, who will never be middle-class again, how very privileged they are and you'll sound ridiculous. You may be right, they will never face racial discrimination, but in a climate of diminishing opportunities
for all but the very wealthy, your words won't resonate.

Stress good opportunities for everyone. Push for equal opportunities at every turn. Let people know that it isn't a fixed pie, and helping group A won't harm group B. If one group matters most to you,
get involved in a charity that helps them. Don't waste your time trying to win over overt racists, as those bigots are dying off anyhow.

But please, please don't call well-intentioned white people racists. If I called everyone who ever said "fag" or "that's so gay" a homophobe, especially if they're progressive, I'd lose influence and shut down opportunities for dialoge. A lot of people want to right the wrongs of this world and combat the different "-isms" but don't know where to start. Calling them racists won't get them started any sooner.
Posted by Subdued Excitement on August 31, 2011 at 9:34 PM · Report this
102
So I throw it out there: "Raise your hand if you're a racist [...] You've never had a negative thought based on racial bias?" I ask.

I enjoyed this piece and while I understand what you are driving at when you pose this question, I have a hard time equating something as simple as a thought with the label of racism. Sure, the blood of our country runs red with racism, racism is embedded in our institutions and society, and no one among us has never had a negative thought based on race. Still it seems to me that if everyone can be labelled a racist, then the label loses some of its usefulness.

I might have the occasional homoerotic thought, but I don't think anyone would label me a homosexual because of it. Alternately, I have let slip the occasional homophobic slur (e.g. "that's so gay"), but I can assure you that I'm no homophobe.

It is important to realize that many of our thoughts and impulses are conditioned. If I feel suspicious or hostile towards a person (e.g. the urge to lock your car door when passing certain folks) and can find no honest justification for it besides race, then I will freely acknowledge that "I just had a racist thought", but I am not about to label myself a racist if I do not act on that impulse or even go out of my way to counter that impulse.

Besides, some of my favorite relatives are black and/or gay. ;)
Posted by Swanky Modes on August 31, 2011 at 8:21 PM · Report this
101
@92 & @93: Points well taken, too.
Inequality seems to be everywhere.
Posted by auntie grizelda on August 31, 2011 at 7:52 PM · Report this
100
@96: Interesting points, too. There doesn't seem to be any easy answer.
Posted by auntie grizelda on August 31, 2011 at 7:48 PM · Report this
99
WOW----!! What an eye-opening article! This really made me stop, take a look at myself, and ask some difficult questions about how I grew up in the era of "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons".

It will indeed be interesting to see what happens over the next two, five, ten years----not just in Seattle, but worldwide as the Earth continues to shrink.

Thank you, Jen Graves, for writing an excellent and very much needed article!
Posted by auntie grizelda on August 31, 2011 at 7:44 PM · Report this
kitschnsync 98
"Honk if you want to reassert your priviledge" would make a great bumpersticker.

Because it is completely absurd.
Posted by kitschnsync on August 31, 2011 at 7:43 PM · Report this
4Shadows 97
Jen Graves continues to struggle with when and how to wield the word "racist":

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archive…

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archive…

Well, all verbal arguments ultimately collapse under the weight of semantics, but I'm still with Henry Louis Gates on this one: "race" is a dangerous trope.

Posted by 4Shadows http://www.4shadows.tumblr.com on August 31, 2011 at 7:43 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 96
Seriously, Jen. Is the white people who got in a fight with the Critical Masstards because he couldn't move his car a racist? What about all the people who honked at the same group of idiots when they blocked 99? What about getting pissed off at the retardos who make right turns from the left turn lane and cut you off?

Or, what if you get mad at an incompetent receptionist for failing to do her job? Is it racist if the worker is a black woman who speaks in street dialect with an accent that comes from the hood? What if it is a trailer-trash speaking white guy? An English-challenged person of any race? A script-reading Indian named "Hank"? A spoiled rich person who only has the job to make money but has no interest in helping you accomplish your task?

When does justified anger and frustration turn into actual racism? Is it ANY anger at a person of a different color? Is it any anger at somebody on THEIR turf?
Posted by TheMisanthrope on August 31, 2011 at 7:39 PM · Report this
the idiot formerly known as kk 95
I think "racist" is a loaded term, because it brings to mind Bull Connor. I deal with no Bull Connor types in Seattle--meaning, there are no people here who wouldn't let my children go to school or swim in the same swimming pool with theirs. So having white folks say they're "racist" seems silly to me.

There is, of course, white privilege, straight privilege, male privilege and Christian privilege. And those privileges are: default. Any institution predominantly white, straight, male and Christian is presumed to be neutral. Does anyone consider Safeway to be white? Does anyone consider Uwajimaya to be neutral? The point is (and this is what creeps out Republicans/Libertarians/denialists): there is no neutral in this country, and there never has been, because the state has actively discriminated against blacks, women, gays and non-Christians.

Well, I'm not a navel-gazer, so as lovely (or misguided) as this article might be, my recommendation would be:

This is America. We believe in putting our money where our mouth is. If you're interested in promoting racial equality, then vote with your dollars.

Get a directory of minority businesses and spend your money there (we used to call it Black Dollar Days).

Make a lesbian your primary care doctor (even if you're a man--yes, it's ok!).

Shop at Uwajimaya instead of Safeway (yes, it might cost a dollar or two more--think of Dr. King in jail--is a dollar or two more worth it?).

Find a nice Japanese or Vietnamese mechanic. (They may not speak great English. Well, it's not all that necessary to speak English to change your oil and notice that your brake pads need changing.)

The point is, don't just wallow in your guilt. Do something. (Eating at your local veganj Thai place or going to Brazil fest at Seattle Center, while nice, don't really count.)

Volunteer for a nonprofit where you will meet your fellow residents of a different ethnicity. Tutor immigrant children at a south-end school. I'm sure you can come up with many more useful ideas.
More...
Posted by the idiot formerly known as kk on August 31, 2011 at 6:30 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 94
It seemed to me the reason they were honked at was that they were having an experience that all people know well: that you're not just entitled to walk anywhere you please, that there might be consequences. Holding up traffic was an attempt to reassert privilege.

No, really Jen. The hammer doesn't swing both ways in some scenarios. I have a feeling that CARW is more an experience of white whining than anything productive.

I second Scary Tyler Moore...classism is legitimate. People hate based on behaviors they see as things poor people do. However, assimilation rarely comes on one's own terms. To move up in society, you generally have to learn the ways of the next class or perish. Exceptions do exist, but they are far more rare than you'd think.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on August 31, 2011 at 6:23 PM · Report this
Rotten666 93
@92 yeah that was pretty dumb. Laughably dumb.

Anywho, we are all different and we should celebrate our differences.

And yes, class is the real issue, not race.

The thought of these wealthy white people forming clubs so they can clutch their pearls and talk about how hard it is to be a good white person is pretty funny to me.

I guess I just have real things to worry about. But it was an interesting article.
Posted by Rotten666 on August 31, 2011 at 6:06 PM · Report this
92
I had to stop after "Honking was an attempt to reassert privilege".

Really? Those drivers wouldn't have honked at white people loping down the middle of the road who refused to move for cars?

Posted by Amanda on August 31, 2011 at 5:27 PM · Report this
91
@Subdued: Studies like this show children of color are impacted more than white children, even when taking in to account local crime rates, income levels, etc:

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/0…

""It’s not that the more violent schools get metal detectors, or even the urban schools get metal detectors—though that’s true,” said co-author Aaron Kupchik, an associate professor in sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware. “It’s that schools with more students of color are more likely to get metal detectors, at every level, even elementary levels.”

That suggests that race, rather than class, can play a role, no?
Posted by Beaulen on August 31, 2011 at 5:17 PM · Report this
90
What, no mention of the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, or People's Institute Northwest? CAR-W does great work, but I didn't think they sprang up as their own entity all by themselves, I thought that both People's Institute and PINW played some role in the origins of the group.
Posted by Beaulen on August 31, 2011 at 4:59 PM · Report this
89
I'm from Atlanta and have visited Ballard and Freemont. I must admit, I was a bit uncomfortable being around so many white people. I am white myself.

I live in the congressional district that elected Cynthia McKinney. I even voted for Miss "Much to Do About a Hair-Do". This is a very diverse area of middle-class black and white people with a strong influx of Hispanic/Asian immigrants over the past 20-25 years.

Anyone who has traveled through the Atlanta airport has surely noticed the overwhelming majority of airport staff is black. I have had people from places like Wisconsin comment on how the airport makes them unsafe felling or uncomfortable without being able to elaborate why. It's all the black people, duh. They don't even realize it. Racism is real and you see it a lot when you are close to it.

A lot of ideas or stereotypes labeled racist, especially concerning black Americans, are sometimes more culturally based than racial. Am I racist for saying something such as "black people love listening to gospel music while driving to work?"
Posted by smitty on August 31, 2011 at 4:42 PM · Report this
Larry Mizell, Jr. 88
chuch, jen.
Posted by Larry Mizell, Jr. on August 31, 2011 at 4:33 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 87
The Bell Curve == Creationism
Race-based supremacy != science.

Your conflating shitty soft-science with hard science and evolution is pretty par for the course. Is it any surprise that a Neo-Nazi wants to practice eugenicism?
Posted by undead ayn rand on August 31, 2011 at 4:16 PM · Report this
The Accidental Theologist 86
A hot-topic think piece that makes you uncomfortable, challenges your assumptions about yourself and your city, wakes you out of smug self-satisfaction like a triple shot of espresso straight into the jugular, and doesn't give you band-aids? Sounds like The Stranger, roaring back to life! Bravissima, Jen.
Posted by The Accidental Theologist http://accidentaltheologist.com on August 31, 2011 at 4:14 PM · Report this
82
Man, white people be PISSED. Privilege is a bitch, ain't it?

This is a fantastic article, and a great start to a necessary discussion.
Posted by hydra on August 31, 2011 at 4:03 PM · Report this
79
It's not *that* they have privilege, it's what they do and how they mask their privilege that brings in elements of racism.

That attributes intentionality that doesn't exist. People who have privilege generally don't "mask" it. At worst, they make an uninformed but perfectly understandable assumption that everyone faces, basically, the same challenges and has the same advantages that they do.

Nobody gives a shit about anyone underneath them on the socio-economic pyramid. African American men do not, as a rule, invest a lot of energy in the socio-economic status of African American women. African American women do not, as a rule, invest a lot of energy in the socio-economic status of undocumented immigrants, or the labor rights of people in the developing nations that make most of the stuff we consume here in the United States. Mexican immigrants to the United States care about opening the U.S. borders, but I doubt any of those people spent much energy advocating for opening Mexico's southern borders to Nicaraguans or Salvadorians fleeing the bloody civil wars in those countries in the 80s.

Complaining that the ethnic/gender group at the top has a special responsibility to look down is the privilege, so to speak, of people who aren't on top. But anyone who bothers to hold that up to the light can see it's pretty weak tea.
Posted by Judah http://www.suoxi.net on August 31, 2011 at 3:47 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 77
@75: You're only better educated if you think watching Fox News, masturbating, and collecting newsclippings is an "education".

Humanity is horrible and murderous, and I acknowledge this.

Where you become an inbred hillbilly is where you somehow think that blacks are exclusively savage.
Posted by undead ayn rand on August 31, 2011 at 3:23 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 74
Man, that unemployed, unregistered Neo-Nazi is just FURIOUS today.

Perhaps you should get a job and stop blaming your loserdom on minorities.
Posted by undead ayn rand on August 31, 2011 at 3:00 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 73
@56: "It's silly to call white progressives racist just because they benefit from social mobility and opportunities they would like everyone else to have"

It's not *that* they have privilege, it's what they do and how they mask their privilege that brings in elements of racism.
Posted by undead ayn rand on August 31, 2011 at 2:58 PM · Report this
72
She should be fired not for being a faux racist but for being an art history teacher. That is the rock upon which educational dollars are sacrificed.
Posted by Cletus on August 31, 2011 at 2:51 PM · Report this
70
They let this woman teach???
Posted by catsnbanjos on August 31, 2011 at 2:38 PM · Report this
68
For anyone looking to get involved or just find out more about local anti-racist activism, the Community Alliance for Global Justice recently held a Food Justice Project Meeting regarding racism as it pertains to the food system: http://www.seattleglobaljustice.org/2011…
Posted by wyndel hunt on August 31, 2011 at 2:36 PM · Report this
62
I guess this is a good article for getting middle class and rich white people to think about their own unconscious "racism". But everything in this article smacks of class privilege, and that brand of egocentricity that seems peculiar to upper-class white people. Basically, Jen is writing off the idea that the whole concept of "skin privilege" is profoundly more complicated, and relevant, for poor white people than it is for middle class or rich white people. White people who can afford to miss a promotion or a scholarship are the ones who are in favor of affirmative action and other substantive "remedies" for racism, but they're rarely the ones who are most profoundly effected by those programs. How convenient that poor white people, who might object to anything that would keep them in poverty longer, are so easily written off as coming from an historically "racist" culture.

One of the problems with talking about this entire issue is that disagreeing with someone about the white guilt paradigm opens you up for charges of being in denial about your own racism.
Posted by Judah http://www.suoxi.net on August 31, 2011 at 2:03 PM · Report this
scary tyler moore 61
i feel the same way, orv. from now on i will be avoiding any and all people who are not 'white' so i do not inflict my white privilege on them. first on that list: My sister and her family! of course, this is gonna make things awkward at family gatherings (I will have to send my regrets), but if it makes life easier for people of color, then i will make that sacrifice!

jesus h christ, jen, give it UP. the dirty little secret of this country isn't race, it's CLASS.
Posted by scary tyler moore http://pushymcshove.blogspot.com/ on August 31, 2011 at 1:59 PM · Report this
60
Statistics are racist.

Also, 'even if you're Asian?' That was written ironically, right?
Posted by jasonsewall on August 31, 2011 at 1:57 PM · Report this
Geni 58
I actually think we're even more in denial about issues of class. After all, we're a "classless" society, right? *choke, cough*

A middle-class minority child is going to have more opportunities than a child growing up in a housing project, regardless of race. And yes, a white child in the projects is probably going to have more opportunities than a minority child in the projects. But any disadvantaged youngster is going to start off way more handicapped than any middle-class or well-to-do child.

As a child of the housing projects myself - and yeah, I'm talking High Point and Holly Park, not the South Side of Chicago or a project in Detroit - I know what an uphill battle it was for me to escape that life.

There's an inherent class snobbery among middle-class people that is even more apparent than racism, maybe because it's become societally unacceptable (except in the most backward circles) to openly mock people for their race, but one can still mock them for being "trailer trash" or "people of WalMart." I hear that shit all the time. It's classism, pure and simple. And yeah, I'm a classist myself - I still have something of a chip on my shoulder about the kids who had everything handed to them on a silver platter but thought themselves hard-used because the car Daddy gave them when they turned 16 was used, or the college Daddy paid for wasn't Ivy League.
Posted by Geni on August 31, 2011 at 1:46 PM · Report this
56
Racist? I'd say classist.

Most white people could care less about the color of their neighbors, if said neighbors were like-minded progressives attempting a middle-class or higher lifestyle. They're bothered by the ghetto stereotype, black, white or whatever else. I could gain a meth habit, lose some teeth, live on the streets and wipe away that white privilege.

Of course racism influences class and social mobility. Many white and middle-class people are blind to this, but their might be some opportunities for dialoge now that the middle class is struggling.

It's silly to call white progressives racist just because they benefit from social mobility and opportunities they would like everyone else to have.
Posted by Subdued Excitement on August 31, 2011 at 1:44 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 52
@8: "I definitely think that her "discussions" where she calls everyone a racist, is part of her pathetic attempt to seem "edgey" and thought provoking- just like this article"

I doubt anything short of a sledgehammer to the head could provoke any sort of thought in you. You seem absolutely incurious, Sarah Palin-style.
Posted by undead ayn rand on August 31, 2011 at 1:35 PM · Report this
Baconcat 49
@34: Pssst, she didn't add anything new on the Slog post and most features writers post links on Slog once or twice during the week.
Posted by Baconcat on August 31, 2011 at 1:31 PM · Report this
Cascadian 46
Great article, Jen. This is a good starting point for getting people to think about this subject productively and act accordingly, even if many people won't take the opportunity.

I think most of the comments, and not just the anonymous trolls, demonstrate exactly how racist we are. I've made it as far as admitting my own racist assumptions and the benefits I see from white privilege, and trying to identify them and work against them. But it's still too easy to be defensive when someone calls out my behavior and actions rather than talking about racism in general. And my social life remains quite segregated. But I try.

What bothers me is that people can't even get to that first stage of admitting that racism exists and that white people--all white people, including progressive-minded white people, and white people who are comparatively underprivileged in other ways, yes even YOU every white person reading this--gain privilege from it. Seattle is not an exception, not even close.
Posted by Cascadian on August 31, 2011 at 1:21 PM · Report this
interestingstuffisgoodstuff 41
Fabulous piece, Jen, and richly demonstrated by the discussion it has already engendered (enraced? ).
Posted by interestingstuffisgoodstuff on August 31, 2011 at 1:10 PM · Report this
39
I don't know if I'd say all people are racist. Some are, but some people seem to be just naturally not that aware of race. I'm of mixed race and I grew up in graduate school housing at a university where some of the world's best minds came to study. So all the kids and people around me were educated, smart and from all different parts of the world. to my knowledge I wasn't even aware of racism or stereotypes until we moved to Texas and settled into a mostly white suburb.

When I moved to Philadelphia as an adult, I would walk by all these row houses on the way to the train I took to work. At certain homes, I would see the same guys sitting on the porch in the morning drinking beer and calling out to me and on my way back in the evening, there they were still! And I was like, OH, THAT'S where that stereotype about black people sitting around all day comes from. It was a completely eye opening for me. Like I said, just about every black, brown and pink person I had met as a child was hard-working and smart, but what if I had not?

However, I do think that probably everybody has some PREJUDICES that it's worthy to examine.
I, for example, tend to have a prejudice against people who are rich, pink, heterosexual, Christian Republicans who live on the Eastside and drive Jaguars, Mercedes or Beemers. If I see a person that I think fits that description, I tend to think, "Ugh." But really, how fair is that? I'm sure there are a lot of totally nice, humble, kind people who are Christian Republicans. Really.
What can I say? I'm working on it.
My short term goal is to not intentionally cut off drivers of luxury vehicles. That's the best I can do for today.
Progress, not perfection. :)
Posted by christine c. on August 31, 2011 at 1:07 PM · Report this
37
(I posted this on facebook, but it does belong here.)

Jen, thank you so much for your courageous article.

When I first moved to Seattle I thought everyone was so nice...and believed that racism wasn't as big of a problem as in other cities. It took me a couple years to realize that Seattle's problem is insidious...because it's what I call polite racism. We are a polite city and I've learned with time to rarely trust the "niceness" that is shown. And then, we mix in a major class problem with the wide gulf between wealth and poverty. It really is all about privilege.

We DO need to have the uncomfortable conversations. Thank you.
Posted by Marie on August 31, 2011 at 1:05 PM · Report this
35
So anyone who claims not be to racist is in denial? As Graves points out, these injustices exist -- white people are less likely to hit the poverty level, go to jail, become homeless, etc. -- but how do you make the leap from acknowledging these discrepancies to saying that every white person is at fault for them, since every white person is racist? Why not also point out other racial inequities, like that black kids are about three times as likely as white kids to be raised in single-parent homes? Is that the fault of white people too? Does pointing this out seem tantamount to beating up on black people?
Posted by Amanda on August 31, 2011 at 1:02 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 34
Pssst... Jen. If you have to go on Slog to explain yourself, after you've written a multi-page article, then maybe you're not as good a writer as you think you are.

Unless your goal was to fill up space between the advertisements. If that's the case then... well done!
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on August 31, 2011 at 1:00 PM · Report this
amyl 32
At nineteen or twenty I think I would have had the same reaction as Tricky. I can choose not to discrimnate, but I cannot opt out of white privledge. That's a hard pill to swallow as a young person who has been taught how important equality is. I would like to suggest viewing a lecture by activist Tim Wise.http://youtu.be/_UJlNRODZHA. Understanding privledge and racism are important when developing a context in which view art and the artist's pov. I wish Jen was teaching when I was a student at Cornish ten years ago.
Posted by amyl on August 31, 2011 at 12:53 PM · Report this
translinguistic other 31
p.s. the Sean Johnson piece is beautiful and compelling, and it's about race as discussed in the article, but it also touches on another thing entirely: the non-binary condition of being of mixed race descent and all its attendant circumstances of not belonging fully anywhere, being alternately invisible and accused of having privilege by both sides, etc.

I see this as a very fruitful topic for an entirely other discussion. The experience of mixed race people can shed a lot of light on our concept of both "whiteness" and "blackness" (or "otherness").
Posted by translinguistic other on August 31, 2011 at 12:53 PM · Report this
STJA 29
Hey dumbass @8, SHE RESPONDED TO YOU.

Race is not avant garde, you fuckwit. Fuck you. Everything went right over your empty head.
Posted by STJA on August 31, 2011 at 12:45 PM · Report this
28
As for me, I'm a racist when it comes to physical attraction to someone (man, woman or transsexual). I'm generally not attracted to pasty, doughy white people like myself. I don't care how nice a body they might have. I'm attracted to people of color, whether they are descended from the continent of Asia, South America, Africa, North America, Australia, or some island. Maybe it's some sort of instinctual thing, where a mutt is stronger genetically than a pure breed. Of course, when I practice homosexual sex, there is no chance of procreation there.

On the subject of immigration, I find that the hysteria of immigrants taking our jobs and threatening our standard of living is a crock of shit. In my union, the angry white Republican men are the first to roll over and suck their boss's dick. They've had their working conditions handed to them on a silver platter. The immigrants are generally more active union members, because they have a better appreciation for union pay and working conditions. I say we kick Republicans out of unions, like they did to Communists after World War 2. The Republican party is a dual and hostile organization to labor unions, as every current Republican presidential candidate supports a national right to work for less law.
Posted by Smell on August 31, 2011 at 12:45 PM · Report this
27
@Tricky. Obviously, after reading this article, and as someone who knows Jen professionally, she is far from putting on act or falsely trying to be edgy or avant garde. She is being honest here and trying to address something that goes unsaid and unspoken. We all claim to be non-racist, but plop a white girl like me in the middle of a black neighborhood in Philadelphia and honestly, I'm a bit uncomfortable and unsure and the people around me are looking at me oddly. There is a lot unsaid there. That said, we can only talk about and experience art from our own perspective. A white person will interpret Sean Johnson or Glen Ligon differently than a black person. A man will interpret differently than a woman, an Asian differently than a Muslim. And since we cannot force our reactions to interact without intentionally filling a room with diverse students, we can only attempt to empathize. And that, I believe is at the heart of this essay. Can we truly empathize or is that also a form of racism? Great stuff as always, Jen! You know hit a nerve when the commenting begins!
Posted by ArtWriter on August 31, 2011 at 12:44 PM · Report this
25
I understand that this article is coming from a good place and it addresses a lot of important issues. But the article (and the CARW) seem to amount to little more than hand wringing. 300 years of white affirmative action is accurate. It's a historical fact, just look at the racial covenants in Seattle (from 50 or so years ago) for example to figure out why the whites are in the north and the minorities in the south.

Accepting these facts, what to do about it? Well congress and the president could amend the constitution to allow affirmative action. That seems extremely unlikely but it is a legislative possibility, and campaigning for people amenable to that (and other social justice issues) is a good idea. If that was accomplished then affirmative action programs would help these inequalities, but there would still be the need to address the culture in which people (white people) feel that affirmative action is a deep injustice to white people.

I guess CARW works on that, but it's hard not to feel a little bit of preaching to the choir. Also I feel like CARW is setting white people to be so hyper-obsessed with race that they can't have real interactions with people. I understand that racial inequality is a huge issue, but human connection is a fundamental tenant of progress of civilization and of course, on a genetic level we're all basically the same. I am a white man married to a person of color. I live in the CD and my neighbors are black or Southeast Asian. I try to be aware of how privileged I am, by my gender, race, and nationality, and try to keep that in mind when I think about politics and current events. And I try to treat all my neighbors with respect. Sometimes that means connecting with people as people, and sometimes as in the case of some of Sudanese Muslims in the neighborhood, I leave them alone because that's the vibe they send out. I don't really know what else to do. I support affirmative action and wish it wasn't unconstitutional, but sitting in a room with a bunch of embarrassed white people engaged in self-flagellation doesn't seem to help much.
More...
Posted by Hosono on August 31, 2011 at 12:43 PM · Report this
translinguistic other 24
@Tricky, you sound a *little* like Stephen Colbert when he says "I don't see race" when you deny having a racist bone in your body. ;)

For my part, I find "whiteness"/"white privilege" as a construct to be somewhat useful, and I think I know what you mean by "whiteness" and pretty much agree with what you've written, Jen, but I don't think people who aren't already inclined to agree with you will be converted, and part of that has to do with the fact that "whiteness" has been defined here on quasi-racial terms, when the social realities it describes have a racial component, along with many other components. (As Adrian Piper and others have pointed out ad nauseum, the degree of physical "whiteness" we see on the outside doesn't always correspond to identity or experience on the inside...)

Perhaps we need a new word for the thing we mean when we say "white privilege," and I think Winn hit the nail on the head when he said "integration usually means assimilation." "Whiteness," the act of being physically white, is not the problem per se, but "whiteness," the act of believing that "white privilege" is some kind of cosmic reward for having a superior political/social philosophy that other people ought to adopt is very much the problem, and it exists everywhere, just under the surface. We need to get to a point where we universally see the statement:

"I am going to convert the Barbarians for their own sake"

as sick, false, destructive, and, not coincidentally, responsible for much of what we currently identify as "civilization."

Variations on this theme have, throughout history, taken many forms:

"Our God will send you to Hell if you don't adopt our monotheistic religion."

"We have to kill terrorists over there to keep them from killing us over here."

"Market capitalism is morally superior to other economic systems because it singularly rewards hard work and competitiveness."

"Manifest Destiny."

What these fictions have in common is that not only do they inscribe a situation where "they" have to be "wrong" in order for "us" to be "right," this right/wrong meme is essentially the ONLY substance they impart. Thus the meme of "whiteness" is really the circular reasoning,

"Everything has to be like this, because 'everything has to be like this' is our core belief."

This isn't a social, economic, or religious philosophy at all. This is what a VIRUS is programmed to do.

"Whiteness," as you've defined it here, is essentially a virus. It may be the virus that gave us LOLcats and the interstate highway system, but it is still a virus. In order for there to be winners, there must be losers. In this case, what is lost is essentially everything about the human experience that is not expressly directed toward the goal of the Borg making more of itself. It is a profound cultural sickness with deep roots (some of them racial, most of them situational and cultural) and we would do well to start seeing it as such.

Perhaps I am also blinded by white privilege/white guilt as well. Unfortunately we are all only able to see the world through the lens of our own personal experience. I don't know how to change that. I can see that making contact with people with other backgrounds and experiences on THEIR terms might be a good practice, but I also don't see how a person goes about eliminating his/her own "terms" from an interaction. Thanks for writing this, though. It's a super difficult topic, but an important one. No one person is ever going to get it completely "right," that's what conversation is for.
More...
Posted by translinguistic other on August 31, 2011 at 12:41 PM · Report this
Baconcat 23
I'm going to list colonial societies and blindly assert nonsense to further a neoracist viewpoint. Afterwards, when my house falls down, I'm going to blame the color of paint we used to repaint it.
Posted by Baconcat on August 31, 2011 at 12:40 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 22
@19: "I think the sentiment expressed by a majority of white people that they're the victims of racism (!!) is probably accurate. It's beyond appalling."

In the same way that living in a sexist society hurts men as well as women, certainly.
Posted by undead ayn rand on August 31, 2011 at 12:37 PM · Report this
21
@6: Someone had to tell you you're racist sometime. That's what college is for.
Posted by alicepenguin on August 31, 2011 at 12:35 PM · Report this
TVDinner 19
417 is a statistically significant sample, so long as you control for other factors, like income, education, location, etc.

And sadly, as someone who lives in an even whiter city than Seattle (!), I think the sentiment expressed by a majority of white people that they're the victims of racism (!!) is probably accurate. It's beyond appalling.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on August 31, 2011 at 12:32 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 18
"I actually tend to avoid interacting with people who are minorities because I know that they'll perceive me as racist, as privileged, as someone who doesn't understand their world."

So because you may be judged honestly for your privilege, you'd rather not consider the fact that you COULD be acting out of privilege and just stick your head in the sand?

Way brave.

@14: respek.
Posted by undead ayn rand on August 31, 2011 at 12:32 PM · Report this
17
I really enjoyed this article. It has been too long since I have discussed race. Thank you.
Posted by thoughtpattern on August 31, 2011 at 12:31 PM · Report this
aardvark 15
zero sum game- that is the knee jerk reaction to Chinese development, too. however, when people lift themselves out of poverty everyone benefits. family sizes goes down, education goes up.
Posted by aardvark on August 31, 2011 at 12:26 PM · Report this
aardvark 14
i love the subject of race. im ok with being called a racist. i cant read your whole article though because im at work, but i can comment!

its easier once one accepts the label racist. then we can be free to honestly make all the mistakes you are afraid of making.

btw this goes for anyone minority of not. every minority has just as many racists as any majority.

the thing is to just not be so theoretical about shit. thats what enables the cognitive dissonance.

be racist, be sexist, know your prejudices and try not to be an asshole but be fucking real. word

Posted by aardvark on August 31, 2011 at 12:20 PM · Report this
13
Can we please stop using the term "African American" unless said American is actually from the African continent?
Posted by The CHZA on August 31, 2011 at 12:12 PM · Report this
Baconcat 12
@6: The problem is that people are educated on a by-the-books view of racism and don't actually understand that's is more than simple superficiality or an internalized disgust.

Racism is more than "no coloreds allowed" and "no dogs, no irish".
Posted by Baconcat on August 31, 2011 at 12:11 PM · Report this
10
great article.
Posted by thehugclub on August 31, 2011 at 12:10 PM · Report this
8
I've been in Jen's classes before, and I definitely think that her "discussions" where she calls everyone a racist, is part of her pathetic attempt to seem "edgey" and thought provoking- just like this article.
I think it would be refreshing for Jen to use her, rather expansive, knowledge of art and culture to produce something that inspires and enlightens, instead of inflames and shocks all in the name of being avant garde.
Posted by Tricky on August 31, 2011 at 11:50 AM · Report this
7
I am honestly sorry you felt that way, @Tricky. It was most probably due to teacher error—my not expressing myself in a way that was as clear as I meant it to be. As I write here, talking about race can be hard, and I'm no expert at it.

Now that it's a few years hence, and now that you have this piece to look at (which I hope does a little bit of a better job describing the ideas in my brain), maybe you will reconsider the subject? We don't have to stay distracted and confused. Or you might just toss it. I'm just throwing it out there.
Posted by Jen Graves on August 31, 2011 at 11:49 AM · Report this
6
I was in one of the classes at Cornish where Jen talked about race, and after the class, most of the students were angry- not because she asked if anyone was racist, and admitted to her own "racism" but because she claimed that everyone there was a "racist".
It was insulting, because most of us know "racism" as "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race".
Many of the students that I talked to were raised not to discriminate or to think of one race as superior to another, so for Jen to come in and tell us all that we're racist, when we came to learn about art, was off-putting to say the least. I don't think it was a good way to discuss the work. Instead it just turned out to be distracting, and had us all leaving confused about the relevance of the class.
Posted by Tricky on August 31, 2011 at 11:35 AM · Report this
Baconcat 5
Everybody's a little bit racist, even you, gentle reader. Get that straight right away. Personally speaking, I had a hard time making white friends as a kid because I'd assumed they'd be rednecks or racists. Of course, the two white friends I made by the time I was 18 weren't exactly going to break that mold. Unfortunately.

The problem ultimately is forcing yourself into hopelessness or defensiveness. If you constantly despair over the thought that you'll always be seen as racist, you'll ignore the people that don't assume you are. You're also assuming that others are racist in a personally hurtful way, too.

The fastest way to get over it -- and the best way to help others -- is to just let go of as much as you can. Stop enabling dimwitted cherry-pickers that flail happily on news of death and sadness to help push a vicious cycle. Stop just assuming you won't be welcome. Stop putting up your shield so quickly. Just cut at least SOMETHING you recognize as harmful to positive racial discourse from your mind as best you can.
Posted by Baconcat on August 31, 2011 at 11:35 AM · Report this
MasMadness 3
I really dug this, and somebody had to write it...thanks Jen.
Posted by MasMadness on August 31, 2011 at 11:23 AM · Report this
1
Self-segregation is a really interesting problem. Mathematically it's easy to show that if people have even a minor preference for living around people who look like them, they'll quickly self-segregate over time. I'm not sure how you combat that tendency.

I'm also really not sure what to take away from this article. The lesson it seems to want to convey to white people is, "you're racist because of your life experiences, and nothing you do will fix that." This isn't a message that makes me want to reach out; it's a message that makes me want to throw up my hands in despair. I actually tend to avoid interacting with people who are minorities because I know that they'll perceive me as racist, as privileged, as someone who doesn't understand their world. This article just reinforces that feeling.
Posted by Orv on August 31, 2011 at 10:46 AM · Report this

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